You may be surprised to hear that there is more than 100,000 charter, tour, and transit bus accidents in the United States every year. That’s nearly 12 bus crashes every hour somewhere in the US, most of them happening in urban areas.
Last year had some horrific news regarding bus accidents including fatal bus crash in the Bronx that killed 15 passengers returning to New York City from a Connecticut casino. This was followed by a tour bus load of Canadian tourists traveling back to Ontario that killed one person and sent another 46 people to the hospital with personal injuries.
One of the issues raised by bus safety advocates is the lack of laws surrounding the use of seatbelts. This was highlighted just last month when a tractor-trailer clipped a bus full of students, flipping the bus onto its side, ejecting a 9-year-old boy out the hatch on the roof and sending 32 people – 29 of them children – to the hospital with serious personal injuries.
Now, a new study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that the fatal bus accident rate for discount intercity carriers is seven times higher than the rate for conventional bus operations.
Why are tour buses and charter buses more prone to accidents than other operators?
The NTSB research intended to study curbside bus companies as a distinct sector of the interstate motorcoach carrier industry. These curbside motor coach operations are defined as “interstate bus companies that conduct scheduled trips between cities and serve passengers at locations other than bus terminals.”
These operations pick up passengers at a series of advertised locations and bring them to destinations such as casinos and other attractions. The study set out to compare relative safety records and evaluate existing federal safety oversight of these companies.
NTSB Researchers found that:
- Newer and smaller companies have a higher accident rate – Ten is the magic number. Tour and Charter operations with ten or less buses or have been in operation less than 10 years have both higher bus accident rates and higher violation rates during roadside inspections.
- Higher fatal accident rate – The six-year fatal accident rate for curbside carriers leading up to March 2011 (the date of the Bronx fatal bus crash) was seven times the rate of terminal-based bus operations.
- Less Regulation – Terminal operations are easier to monitor and inspect. However, because pick up and drop off is often by appointment or not in established bus areas, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has found it difficult to fully inspect these operations to detect and enforce safety violations.
- Lack of regulation resources – The FMCSA, like many organizations, runs o a shoestring budget and thus does not have budget or manpower to regulate properly. In fact, the organization only has 1.15 investigators for every 1,000 motor carriers nationwide. To ensure compliance with federal regulations, the NTSB recommends an increase in the number of inspectors.
- Operator hours – The FMCSA has been going back and forth with carriers and the trucking industry about the issue of number of hours worked, number of breaks, and operator fatigue. Fatigue is one of the biggest causes of bus and trucking accidents.
- Regulating curbside ticket brokers – Curbside ticket brokers can be potentially regulated by many agencies, but the NTSB recommends that the FMCSA be given the authority to regulate them both on site and online.
Charter Bus and Tour Bus Safety
In Washington State and across the country, there are major problems with bus safety overall. In 2010, Texas implemented a program to install seatbelts into all school buses. This has run into serious budgetary and monitoring issues. Almost every school district has put up resistance, not because they’re not concerned about safety, but because they were given the order to do the task, but no money with which to achieve it.
With this as an example and a fair amount of lobbying money, the bussing industry has been successful in staving off many regulations that may prove to save lives. However, as more people die and studies are conducted, they will not be able to stop the inevitable. That is why many regulators and legislators from around the country are contemplating some sweeping changes.
Some of these regulations are:
- Seat belts – Industry representatives contend that the installation of seat belts would be cost prohibitive, raise operating costs, and thus ticket prices in an already struggling industry. They cite that there is little evidence that seat belts on busses would save lives. This is the same argument that the car industry used to fight installing seatbelts in cars and they have long been proven wrong. The bussing industry also says they cannot control who uses the belts, however, safety advocates say that passengers should be given the option.
- Training – According to regulators and safety advocates, more stringent training and supervised driving time would go a long way to improving safety. Industry reps dispute that their training standards are strict enough and say that these regulations may shrink the pool of drivers and raise the cost of eligible drivers, thus driving up operating costs.
- Operator rules – Regulating strict rules around when and how long an operator can drive, plus the number of breaks, will go a long way to increasing safety by curbing driver fatigue. The NTSB says that 36% of motor coach collision deaths during the past 10 years have been caused by driver fatigue. This needs to change.
- Crash Sensors – In the coming years you will see some innovative new technology that will help drivers avoid accidents such as crash sensors that not only tell the driver how many cars are around them, but also where the cars are located. Some bus companies have utilized this technology, but the majority has not. This will go a long way to preventing accidents involving lane changes and narrow roads.
Washington Bus Accident Lawyer
When people are on vacation or wishing to move a large group from one place to another, they choose charter bus companies because they have trained drivers who know the area and are licensed to drive large vehicles. However, if this employee is under paid and forced to work long hours to make ends meet or is not adequately trained, this can put passenger’s lives in jeopardy.
If you or someone you know has sustained an injury in a bus accident some of the best advice you can get is to seek legal council from a law firm that is successful in bus accident litigation. Call Phillips Law Firm for a consultation.