U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters proposed new rules on Nov. 19 to improve the safety of school bus seats and expand the use of shoulder belts—but she declined to order that all new buses include seat belts.

Peters rode a packed school bus to Morrisville Elementary School in Morrisville, N.C., which is among the first schools in the country to equip some of its new buses with seat belts, then said she wants to increase the height of seat backs on all school buses from 20 inches to 24 inches to...

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