Sara’s Wish Foundation Tackles Retrofitting Existing U.S. Motorcoaches with Seatbelts

After a number of years of debate, in December, 2013 the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act [MESA] which mandates beginning in 2016 all U.S. motorcoaches must have seats with three-point safety restraints. However, the 30,000 existing buses on the road today were not mandated to be retrofitted because of the estimated cost of such a retrofit…$40,000 to $80,000 per 54-seat bus. Such an expenditure would compel a large portion of the 3500 independent motorcoach companies to go out of business.
Sara’s Wish Foundation and the University of Massachusetts’ College of Engineering have been developing over the past decade a patented portable seatbelt. And the understanding of this portable invention allowed the engineers to adapt the design to a lower cost, now provisionally patented, retrofit design that would reduce costs of a retrofit to less than $10,000. Anne and Charlie Schewe along with their College of Engineering partners in the design, Professors Sundar Krishnamurty and John Collura, have been working in Washington to gain the support of key constituencies. All organizations and agencies have voiced strong support for this Sara’s Wish Foundation initiative. While governmental and industry organizations supported no retrofit in the MESA bill, they strongly preferred to have a motorcoach retrofit but were compelled to oppose so as not to drive many bus companies out of business. SWF and its partners have the backing of the American Bus Association and its president, Peter Pantuso, has attended numerous governmental meetings with SWF to show support. The retrofit team has met with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the National Safety Transportation Agency, and high level administrators in the Department of Transportation to voice SWF’s concern for the retrofit and the solution that it has. We are getting traction for our efforts in this retrofit initiative…and as always, hope to save lives in Sara’s name. That, we believe, is Sara’s wish! The University of Massachusetts’ College of Engineering through the assistance of Professor John Collura recently has received an award of $50,000 from the State of Massachusetts Department of Transportation that will allow completion of the final aspects of the retrofit design as well as the crash testing of the design. American Seating Corporation, the largest motorcoach seating manufacturer, has graciously provided a bus seat for testing. So this retrofit initiative is in fully “on the road” during 2015.