In light of early 2011 fatal bus crashes in New York, Ohio and New Jersey, proposed safety regulations on motorcoaches are gaining support. The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act was introduced in 2007 on the heels of a motorcoach crash that killed five players on the Bluffton University baseball team; it picked up speed after a fatal crash involving the University of Mount Union wrestling team.
The bill, however, was shut down in 2010. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, originally launched this bipartisan bill because they believed it adds common sense provisions to the motorcoach industry, and they continue to push it as more lives are lost in bus accidents. With 750 million passenger trips taking place each year, the safety of that industry should be of paramount importance.
One of the regulations in the bill would require seatbelt restraints in motorcoach buses. Other stipulations include strengthening the tops of buses, installing windows that are ejection-proof and making exits and windows that are easier for passengers to open. The American Bus Association balked at the costs associated with the legislation, saying it could cost $89,000 per vehicle to implement the recommendations. Joan Claybrook, former chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls the estimate inflated and suggests the actual cost of the updates would be about a nickel per bus ticket.
Greyhound is currently and voluntarily in the process of installing seatbelts.
Sen. Hutchinson stands by the Safety Act, saying that according to the Transportation Department, 70 percent of bus fatalities come from people being ejected, and over half of the crashes involve buses rolling over.
The bill also calls for strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety regulations including roadside inspections, safety audits, state and motor carrier programs for identifying vehicle defects, and electronic onboard recorders with capabilities of tracking the number of hours the driver has been behind the wheel.
The United Motorcoach Association (UMA) has spoken out against the legislation and expressed support for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, saying, “NHTSA is on course to do the things that are truthfully what the safety advocates want…I’m not sure what legislation would do to change that.” UMA has also stressed the additional hardships that new operators who wish to enter the motorcoach business will encounter. With the safety inspections and regulations of the bill, it could take several months before on-site reviews are performed and the buses can begin running. Most new coach operators cannot afford to purchase new coaches and hire new employees, all the while not generating income.
As usual, an industry facing additional regulations must count the potential cost, but what is the price of the lives already lost?
Road safety is of utmost importance to the law firm of Fried Rogers Goldberg. If you have been involved in an vehicular accident involving a bus, a commercial truck, or another automobile, Contact Us for a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.