Bulgaria’s law on seatbelts in buses not being implemented – report

A year after the August 25 2018 bus crash near the Bulgarian town of Svoge in which 20 people died, implementation of the subsequent law requiring the fitting of seatbelts in older buses that do not have them has not yet begun.

After the Svoge bus crash, prosecutors pressed charges against a number of people, including the bus driver and two Road Infrastructure Agency officials. Three Cabinet ministers resigned. The government said that it would found a new road safety agency body. Parliament approved a new law on seat belts in buses.

The September 2018 law did not pass without criticism because it provided for exceptions to certain types of buses on routes of certain distances. But even in the form in which it was passed, it is not being complied with.

The grace period for fitting seat belts in older buses manufactured without them expired in early July, Bulgarian National Radio said. The amendments to the Road Transport Act provide for traffic police to check buses and, if no seatbelts have been fitted, to fine drivers and the transport companies that own the buses.

Technotest, an accredited testing laboratory and technical services firm, told Bulgarian National Radio that fines already had been issued. Most cases involved buses used for “occasional” transportation, tourism and children’s excursions.

The problem was mainly in the M2 category, meaning a bus of up to 22 seats.

Lachezar Denkov of Technotest told Bulgarian National Radio that accredited testing laboratories were ready to carry out checks, including to subject seatbelts to stretch tests to see if they break. If the tests are passed, a certificate is issued.

Technotest engineer Russim Russimov said that there was an increase in the number of bus companies seeking to downgrade the categories of their buses, to escape the requirements of the law.

Some companies were reducing the number of seats, to have the vehicles come under the requirements for cars. Another goal was to have the tachograph removed. They also sought lessened requirements for the qualifications of bus drivers. “It’s increasingly difficult to find a bus driver,” Russimov said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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