Car accidents and other motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of personal injury and wrongful death in the US. When motor vehicle accidents involve large vehicles such as a bus or truck, the risk of serious injury or death only increases. According to a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board (or NTSB), the rate of fatal bus accidents is seven times higher for curbside buses than other bus operators. As a Chicago personal injury lawyer, this report reveals a serious danger among curbside bus operators that must be corrected.
There are 360 million bus passengers every year. Most bus operators pick up passengers at traditional, designated bus stops. In contrast, curbside bus operators pick up passengers from street corners, parking lots, and in front of retail stores.
Curbside bus operators have become increasingly popular based, in part, on their cheap fares. However, as with many things in life, cheaper is not always better--particularly when it comes to safety. More than half of curbside bus operator companies have been in business for ten years or less. Most curbside bus companies have 10 buses or less in their fleet. Thus, curbside bus companies are usually less experienced compared to traditional bus operators. According to the NTSB report, new bus companies were more likely to have higher accident rates and roadside inspection violations. Most alarming, the rate of fatal accidents for curbside bus accidents is seven times higher compared to conventional bus operators.
The NTSB report on bus accidents was requested by Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nydia Velasquez of New York, following a bus accident in their state that killed fifteen passengers and injured eighteen others. The bus accident occurred when the operator lose control and ran off an elevated highway. The bus was returning passengers who had spent a night of fun and gambling. The bus crashed after it went off an elevated highway and hit a utility pole. The bus operator, World Wide Travel, was shut down for safety violations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (or FMCSA) is responsible for working with states to enforce safety regulations of interstate bus companies. According to the NTSB, the FMCA is simply overburdened. Although there are 878 federal and state inspectors, they are responsible for overseeing 765,000 bus companies. That is an average of slightly more than one inspector for every 1,000 bus companies.
This year alone, there have been 23 interstate bus accidents resulting in 33 fatalities, according to Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety. The organization is pushing for stricter bus safety regulations. With the Federal Motor Carrier Administration already overwhelmed, it seems unlikely this measure, alone, will dramatically reduce the rate of bus accident fatalities. More federal and state inspectors are needed to properly regulate the bus industry--particularly curbside bus companies. With just over one inspector per 100,000 bus companies, more regulations will not solve the problem. After all, more regulations mean little if there are not enough people to enforce existing regulations.
ABC News Website / Associated Press, Curbside Buses Have Higher Fatal Accident Rate, October 31, 2011.
Resource4accidents.com, Bus Accidents and Bus Accident Lawyers, Updated February 19, 2010.