Evaluation of Occupant Protection in Buses

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TP 14006 E
June 2002

Prepared by: RONA Kinetics and Associates Ltd.
Report RK02-06

Prepared for: Motor Vehicle Safety (ASFBE), Transport Canada






This report describes the results of a review of bus occupant protection research and regulatory practices in Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe. The focus of the study is on occupant safety in intercity buses and issues for future consideration.

In this context, an intercity bus is categorised as follows:

  • seating capacity of 25 or more;
  • GVWR of 5,000 kg or more;
  • provides intercity, charter or tour services;
  • no standing passengers;
  • dedicated underfloor storage capacity.

Attempts to extract collision and exposure data for intercity buses were frustrated by the lack of common bus categories. Data were available on severe and fatal collisions which had been investigated in detail. These investigations showed that the majority of fatal and serious bus occupant injuries occur in rollovers and ejections.

In the 1980's, after a series of severe motorcoach collisions and significant public pressure, federal regulations were introduced in Australia to address rollover strength, seat and seat anchorage strength and the fitting of lap/torso seat belts in motorcoaches.

In North America, primary focus to date has been placed on school bus safety. The introduction of Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in the mid-1980's resulted in a passive safety system or "compartmentalisation" in school buses. This passive system, largely dependent on seat spacing and padded seat backs, has worked well in preventing injuries during collisions. Discussion continues, however, on the benefit of seat belts in school buses. It is generally agreed that lap belts are not the solution. The effectiveness of lap/torso seat belts is recognised, however there are concerns regarding installation costs and maintenance issues as well as their proper use.

In Europe, regulations now exist which apply to the strength of the superstructure and the strength of seats and their anchorages. In the United Kingdom, regulations have been introduced which require seat belts to be fitted in all new intercity and minibuses. Fitting of seat belts in other European countries varies from country to country. A three-year research program, Enhanced Coach and Bus Occupant Safety ( ECBOS ), was initiated in Europe in January 2000. The work is aimed at the reduction of injuries through the development of new bus regulations and standards. Work to date has been focused on an analysis of bus collision data.

In summary, available data confirm that bus travel is one of the safest modes of transport in North America, Australia and Europe. When a bus collision does occur, however, it generally receives considerable media attention and public focus. For this reason, discussions continue on ways to improve bus occupant safety. The key findings of the review are:

  • There is no common definition for different types of buses.
  • There is little harmony or detail in the classification of bus types in collision data.
  • Rollovers and ejections are the major causes of serious and fatal injuries to bus occupants.
  • Lap belts are not the preferred manner of restraint.
  • Lap/torso seat belts are effective in preventing injuries and ejections.
  • Retentive glazing may also reduce the risk of ejections.
  • Retrofitting of seat belts is difficult and costly when the floor structure is not strong enough to take the loads.
  • Bus seats with integral seat belts are available without weight penalty.
  • Regulations in Australia and Europe regarding the strength of the bus superstructure, seat attachments and seat belts generally reflect real world collision data.



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