Seat belts in charter buses can save lives research shows

Seat belts in charter buses can save lives research shows »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Sunday's deadly crash of a charter bus near Pendleton is prompting some people to ask if there's anything that can be done to make motor coach travel safer.

There is research that supports mandatory seat belts in tour buses.

The spokesman for the American Bus Association says motor coach, or tour bus travel, is "the safest form of surface transportation in the country." That may be, but are there changes that could be made to save more lives?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 750 million passengers board motor coaches every year. This number doesn't include people who ride public buses or school buses.

Between 2001 and 2010, motor coach crashes resulted in an average of 17 deaths per year; though in 2011 there were 28 deaths alone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says ejection of passengers due to a rollover represents the highest percentage of deaths. It also says lap-and-shoulder belts in motor coaches could reduce those deaths by 77 percent.

It's why, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation Motor Coach Safety Action Plan, the transportation secretary will be pushing for mandatory seat belts in tour buses in 2013.

All Resort Group in Utah is one of the few companies to make the move voluntarily. It installed passenger belts in October.

"On a coach like this, which is 56 passengers, and they sell for almost $500,000 a piece, to have three-point seat belts put in is an extra $3,000. So really, very little,” said Richard Bizzaro, CEO of All Resort Group.

The tour bus involved in Sunday's crash had only one seat belt. That belt was around the driver, and he survived.