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.