We like it when the federal government shows glimmers of good sense, and we think the Transportation Department is showing some good sense in its approach to seat belts in motorcoaches.

Occupant fatalities in this mode of transportation are relatively rare, but nonetheless, buckling up could markedly reduce the incidence of deaths and injuries.

In the 10-year period ending in 2008, the DOT counted 54 accidents that resulted in 186 fatalities -- 24 drivers and 162 passengers. The DOT's data show that the most common fatal scenario was when passengers were ejected.

The DOT also conducted crash tests to determine the effects on adult passengers, senior citizens and children.

Given that the overall price of a new, over-the-road coach can easily top $400,000, the cost of requiring lap and shoulder belts in new coaches -- which the DOT estimates at $12,900 -- is something that the industry should find manageable.

Notably, the DOT is thinking in terms of giving the industry a three-year lead time, and it is not proposing to require that existing equipment be retrofitted.

While reasonable people might disagree with the DOT's conclusions, this looks like a proposal that is, overall, reasonably grounded in facts and analysis.

We wish that more of the DOT's air travel policies were similarly rooted.

This column appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of Travel Weekly.

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