New research by the Motor Industry Research Association and sponsored by Renault and Mercedes-Benz reveals that most minibus seatbelts in older vehicles are likely to tear a hole in the floor of the vehicle rather than save the life of a person in the event of an accident. As a result, regulations coming into effect next February which make it compulsory for all minibuses built since 1988 and which carry children to have belts fitted, will be virtually useless.
The research claims that most older minibuses are converted vans which did not have thick enough floors to hold the seat anchorage in a major crash. MIRA's findings were backed by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents which will shortly publish a guide for minibus operators entitled 'Minibus Safety - A Code of Practice'.
Minibuses manufactured within the last two-and-a-half to three years and fitted with seatbelts as original equipment were not a problem, said RoSPA road safety adviser Dave Rogers. But he said both RoSPA and MIRA were concerned with the safety of minibuses where seatbelts had either been fitted retrospectively by non-franchised dealers or where vehicles had been fitted with non-manufacturer approved fitting kits.