Over the last ten years, fatal bus accidents across the country have sparked the following debate: (1) Is enough being done to prevent these accidents from happening; and (2) Is enough being done to reduce the risk of injury when these accidents do occur.
Recently, this debate has taken the form of proposed national legislation that would require regulators to implement bus safety recommendations that the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") has long advocated.
According to a recent press release from the NTSB, some of the most pressing recommendations have been on the NTSB’s “Most Wanted List” for a decade and still have not been implemented! Those recommendations address occupant protection, better Government oversight, and the implementation of advanced technologies to prevent accidents.
More specifically, the NTSB recommends that large buses and motor coaches provide seatbelts for all passengers and easier-to-use emergency exit windows. The NTSB has also made some recommendations addressing the structural integrity of large buses, advocating for stronger roofs that do not crush or tear away easily. Obviously, stronger roofs provide more passenger protection in the event of an accident. Further, window glazes have been recommended to prevent windows from shattering.
The NTSB has also long advocated for the use of electric onboard recorders to track the number of hours a driver has been behind the wheel and other technologies such as lane-departure warnings, electronic stability control, and forward-collision warning systems.
When accidents do occur in motor coaches, passengers can be thrown from the vehicle and the risk of injury or death is significant. Since the late 1990’s, the NTSB has identified specific strategies to reduce the risk of occupant injury and death.
NTSB officials are hopeful that new legislation could finally force implementation of these recommendations and the prevention of future tragedies.