SALT LAKE CITY — Seat belts dramatically increase a person's chance of surviving a crash. While mandatory in all cars, they are not often seen in buses.
A Utah company hopes to change that.
Park City-based All Resort Group has invested more than $2 million in its newest fleet equipped with seat belts. Lewis Stages, the maker of the bus, rolled out a three-point safety belt along with a lap belt in its coaches Tuesday.
Company officials say the system will keep passengers in their seats if a bus should rollover.
"In a rare occurrence that there is an accident, we want to be sure that passengers stay in their seats," said Richard Bizzaro, owner of Lewis Stages.
Drivers and passengers who wear seat belts are 50 percent more likely to survive a crash than those who do not buckle up. According to the website Zero Fatalities, "failing to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other traffic safety-related behavior."
Bizzaro said people riding his buses fitted with safety restraints are still getting used to the idea of using a seat belt.
"It's been a little bit slow," he said. "Some people don’t buckle up, but more and more are as they see them."
Right now, one-third of All Resort Group's fleet has seat belts, with the goal of reaching 100 percent within three years. All Resort Group is first in the state to have seat belts in its large buses, company officials said.
Bizzaro wants Utahns to ask the Legislature to make seat belts on buses mandatory.
"My personal opinion about school buses is that all of them should have seat belts," he said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in this country. It said buses are designed to be heavier and distribute crash forces differently than a passenger car, therefore making them safer in a collision.
It also said buses uses a safety concept called "compartmentalization," which requires that the interior of large buses provide a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.
Still, being a grandfather, Bizzaro said he wanted to show his grandchildren the importance of buckling up anytime they are in a vehicle.
"I thought I would set a good example," he said.