UMass Transportation Center and Sara’s Wish Foundation Receive Safe System Innovation Grant From the Road to Zero Coalition

Grant will Help Promote Seat Belt Use on Motor Coaches
Seat belt graphic

AMHERST, Mass. – The University Massachusetts Transportation Center (UMTC) and Sara’s Wish Foundation (SWF) have received a one-year, $83,147 Safe System Innovation Grant from the Road to Zero Coalition to advance their collaborative effort to end traffic fatalities by 2050 by promoting seat belt use on motor coaches.

The grant will help SWF and UMTC create an effective national motor coach seatbelt educational campaign “kit” to be distributed to motor coach operators. It includes easy-to-implement templates of actions including formal announcements made by the motor coach driver, a video via an in-vehicle monitor or internet-based application, promotional banners at the entrance to the motor coach and in the terminal waiting area, text or email messages sent to riders, digital messages promoting seatbelt usage when tickets are purchased online as well as a simple message printed on the ticket and also attached to the back of each seat: e.g., “Be Safe, Sit, Click and Ride.”

“The expectations are that this campaign ‘kit’ will enable motor coach operators to make passengers aware of the benefits of wearing seatbelts and that this awareness will convince passengers that seatbelts can save their lives and reduce the severity of injuries in crashes. This in turn is expected to lead to increases in motor coach seatbelt usage,” says Anne Schewe, SWF president. 

UMTC Director Professor Michael Knodler says, “The need to continue to focus on promoting seatbelt usage especially along our busy, high speed highways, is of paramount importance. And it makes good sense in light of the fact that all new buses since 2016 are required by law to be equipped with seatbelts, a multi-million dollar investment made annually by motor coach operators. Based on a small, preliminary survey conducted jointly by SWF and UMTC, current seatbelt usage on motor coaches may be on the order of 1 percent.”

The SWF and UMTC program will include: “before” seatbelt usage counts along motor coach routes in selected locations in the United States; the development of a comprehensive plan to educate motor coach passengers about the benefits of wearing seatbelts and to persuade passengers to wear their seatbelts (where installed); implementation and evaluation of the comprehensive plan with the aid of “after” seatbelt usage counts; post-implementation focus groups; and the final preparation and distribution of the campaign “kit.” SWF and UMTC have a long history of working with U.S. DOT agencies including Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Highway and Transit Administrations as well as the American Bus Association, United Motor Coach Association, Greyhound, Peter Pan Bus Lines, and other motor coach industry stakeholders.

The Road to Zero initiative was launched in 2016 as a joint effort between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the National Safety Council. The goal is to eliminate roadway deaths by 2050. The Department of Transportation committed $1 million annually from 2017 to 2019 and an additional $500,000 in 2018 to fund Safe System Innovation Grants, and the National Safety Council is managing the grant process. For more information, visit nsc.org/roadtozero.

Sara’s Wish Foundation was established to perpetuate the memory of Sara Christie Schewe the daughter of Anne and Charles Schewe, professor emeritus of marketing at UMass Amherst. In 1996, Sara was killed in a fatal bus crash along with six others including three classmates while participating in a study abroad program. The mission the foundation is to sustain Sara’s living spirit by promoting travel safety standards and practices around the globe and by providing financial support to young women working in the areas of education, health care and/or public service in the global community. www.saraswish.org

UMass Transportation Center (UMTC) conducts transportation research, education, and training activities to improve transportation mobility and safety with innovative technologies and institutional strategies and partnerships. The UMassSafe Program, a multidisciplinary traffic safety research program housed in UMTC, works with many federal and state transportation safety agencies and transportation industry partners. UMassSafe collects and analyzes crash related data, provides online data access, develops training materials and examines data quality challenges within the databases, providing recommendations for safety improvements to save lives and to reduce injury severity. www.umasstransportationcenter.org