Fifteen passengers lost their lives on March 12, 2011, when a bus in New York City crashed on Interstate 95 and turned on its side. Just two days later, a bus crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike and took the lives of the driver and another passenger. Later that month, a tour bus crashed in New Hampshire. No one was killed but several were injured. In early April, two men were killed after falling out of a tour bus in Massachusetts.
All of these accidents prompted legislators to take note. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 221 buses were involved in fatal collisions in 2009, the most recent national data available. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates an average of 19 bus passengers are killed each year and dozens more injured.
Bus safety was the topic of a recent U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on March 30th. Suggestions mentioned at the hearing include:
- Requiring seatbelts
- Using electronic stability control for buses
- Adding on-board recorders to monitor driver hours worked
- Requiring stronger roofs
- Requiring stronger windows
- Adding fire extinguishers
Currently none of the above are required for commercial buses. Proponents of increased regulation say these simple measures could save lives. Around half of bus passenger fatalities occur because of rollovers, and during those rollovers, about 70 percent are thrown from the bus. Seatbelts and stronger roofs and windows could help prevent those deaths.
Creating Stricter Bus Driver Regulations Has Been a Slow Process
The National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB) studied driver influence in accidents, and found driver fault in 60 percent of crashes over a 12-year period. Yet creating stricter mandates on driver training is proving difficult.
For the last six years the DOT has been working on updated regulations for driver training, but as yet nothing is official. Nor is this anything new. Congress has pressed the Transportation Department into developing stricter standard testing for the last 20 years. In 2004 the DOT finally passed regulations, only to have them struck down in court as not being in line with the DOT’s own data.
For now, the NTSB will have a public forum in May to check on the DOT’s progress to improve bus safety. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has indicated the DOT will issue mandatory training standards by this fall.
If you have been in a car or bus accident you may be able to recover the costs of medical expenses and wage loss. Contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.