Seatbelts for Motorcoach Buses Proposed

Following several <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/bus_accidents">bus accidents in recent years that have left many dead and scores injured, the commercial bus industry has been under fire for its safety record. The Obama administration announced yesterday that it plans on proposing safety regulations for long-distance buses, reported the Associated Press. The proposal will include stronger standards for the vehicles’ roofs, as well as seatbelts.

In 1968, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first announced a recommendation to add seat belts to large nationwide buses; however, today, most buses do not offer seatbelts, an issue cited in many deadly accidents. The NTSB is the agency that investigates serious transportation crashes and issues and has been the most persistent in calling for safety improvements such as: Three-point seat belts, stronger windows, stronger roofs, heat sensors, fire suppression devices, increased driver certification requirements, training, and more vigorous inspection and monitoring of bus companies.

NTSB has also long criticized Department of Transportation regulators for negligence, unanimously voting to cite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for not implementing important safety standards, said the Washington Post previously. Also, late last year, we pointed out that while airline crashes tend to receive more press, many travelers die in bus and train accidents as well, noting the August 2008 bus crash that killed 17 people traveling from Houston to a religious event, the Atlanta bus accident the prior year involving Bluffton University athletes, and the 2002 Texas bus accident involving Texas church campers.

One long, ongoing, unaddressed safety issue remains as to why basic recommendations made years ago have never been implemented. This lack of action has confused safety advocates for an incredible 40 years.

The NHTSA has just released a motorcoach safety plan that seeks performance requirements for bus roofs by year-end, with a rule on seatbelt installation by early 2010, said the AP. Both issues have been of concern to safety advocates for some time, citing passenger ejection in rollover accidents, according to the AP. Motorcoaches are, explained the AP, elevated passenger deck vehicles in which the deck is constructed “over a baggage compartment,” and which are most commonly used by the tour industry or for inter-city travel.

The plan also calls for a technology that records when a bus is and is not in operation to ensure drivers are not exceeding driving times, said the AP, explaining that this requirement originated from a link made between driver fatigue and fatal accidents.

The new plan also calls for a ban on texting by drivers and limiting cell phone use when operating a vehicle, said the AP. This ban followed federally-sponsored research that revealed drivers are an astounding 23 times likelier to become involved in a crash when driving and texting and experience a six-fold increased chance of a crash when driving and dialing a cell phone, added the AP. There is also a proposed “crack down” on bus drivers who attempt to skirt safety regulations, so called “chameleon” carriers who disband operations in one name to open in another, reported the AP.

A review of bus safety was ordered earlier this year after a Utah crash that killed nine and injured over 40 people returning from a ski trip, said the AP. In that crash, the roof was sliced off the bus and all but one passenger was ejected. The driver remained in the bus, since the bus’ only seatbelt was securing the driver and one passenger was pinned between seats and could not be thrown from the vehicle, explained the AP.

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