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Should Charter Buses Receive a Safety Grade?

Many charter buses on the road have a history of serious safety violations. However, passengers are often unaware of the risks. Following a fatal charter bus crash in New York City, momentum is growing to require charter bus companies to consciously display their safety grades on bus windshields.

Charter Bus Safety Concerns

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were over 11,000 fatal crashes involving charter buses between 1975 and 2013. Last year, 13 people died and 31 more were injured in a tragic California bus crash involving a tractor-trailer.

Buses that are poorly maintained or lack required safety equipment are at greater risk for crashes. In addition, the failure to comply with federal safety regulations, such as not using licensed and qualified commercial drivers, or not following Hours of Service rules that keep fatigue-impaired drivers off the road, also puts passengers at risk.

The FMCSA currently gives each commercial bus operator a rating of satisfactory, conditional and unsatisfactory. The agency’s SaferBus mobile application allows passengers to check the safety record of the carrier they are choosing, including safety ratings and performance results. However, many bus passengers are not aware of this important tool.

Charter Bus Crash Prompts Proposal for New Requirements

To further increase public awareness of bus companies with poor safety records, Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to assign letter grades (A, B and C) and require bus companies to post them on bus windshields. “While there are safety grades when someone gets on a bus, they have no idea what they are,” Sen. Schumer said at a news conference. “They are required to be posted on the websites, but they are posted in such a small, hidden way no one sees them.”

In the recent New York crash involving a charter bus operated by Dahlia Group, the bus driver ran a red light and struck a city bus. The driver and two others were killed, while 16 people were injured. The charter bus was traveling at 58 miles per hour — nearly twice the speed limit — at the time of the crash. The driver had 11 safety violations on his record and has been fired by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority after a DUI arrest. “But the passengers who got on the bus had no idea Dahlia was not a safe company,” Sen. Schumer said. “That’s the tragedy of this.”

On the state level, California has taken steps to improve charter bus safety. A new law requires the driver of a charter bus that is designed to carry 39 or more passengers to provide oral and written or video instructions to all passengers on the safety equipment and emergency exits on the vehicle prior to the beginning of any trip. In addition, vehicles manufactured after July 1, 2020, must be equipped with emergency lighting fixtures that will turn on in the event of an impact or collision. The law requires the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to adopt standards and criteria for the implementation of these equipment and safety requirements no later than July 1, 2018.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a California bus crash, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.