It’s been termed a “new federal position.”

And, indeed, it is, marking a notable departure from previous utterances from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials regarding seat belt use on school buses across the country.

Many readers of this Southern California personal injury blog are likely well acquainted with that issue, with both a plethora of state and national news stories weighing in on the subject matter in past months. School bus safety has flatly become a hot-button news item in national discourse focused upon traffic-safety considerations.

As noted in one recent media article addressing the subject, the NHTSA’s recently revised stance announced by agency head Mark Rosekind earlier this month marks a notably sharp departure from prior policy statements.

In the past, the NHTSA has stated that belt-related issues should be resolved by school districts at the local level, owing to each district’s unique operational and budgetary concerns. More recently, the agency downplayed the significance of lap-shoulder belts on school buses, stating that they would not yield material safety benefits.

That regulatory tune has now changed, with Rosekind stressing the desirability going forward of all the nation’s school buses being equipped with three-point seat belts. He states that the recommendation — which is just that, being short of a formally issued rule — should be “utterly non-controversial.”

Rosekind is calling for input from officials in the small minority of states that already have mandatory school bus belt laws.

There are only six states with such enactments, with California and Texas alone having three-point belt requirements presently.