Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, moving to solidify his status as the nation’s Nanny-in-Chief, has shifted his focus from using the might of the federal government to outlaw texting while driving, to now require that commercial buses be outfitted with lap-shoulder safety belts. Never content to let the marketplace determine if consumers care sufficiently about a safety item to use their buying power to force manufacturers to incorporate those features in their products, Uncle Sam is once again forcing the marketplace to adhere to its dictates. In this instance, LaHood is citing the fact that in an average year there are 19 (that’s correct, 19, one-nine, only) fatalities involving passengers on commercial motorcoaches, as the “crisis” necessitating this federal mandate. Initially, the regulation will apply only to new motorcoaches, but once the door is opened, it will be only a matter of time before mission creep sets in and the mandate is expanded.
The pattern is well known. Once the feds mandate a safety device for one category of product, the requirement is then applied to smaller and smaller categories of the product. It won’t therefore be long before all types and sizes of buses will be required to install the lap-shoulder belt devices. As usual, consumers will be expected to pay for the bus companies and manufacturers to produce and install these devices.
Whether anyone will use the belts once installed is another thing; but one can presume Nanny LaHood (or his successor) will find a solution for that crisis — mandate that bus passengers wear the belts at all times or face a fine. Isn’t it great to live in a free country?