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New Bill Could Make Buses Safer, According to Oregon Accident Attorney

With gas prices spiraling ever higher, people are continually looking for less expensive ways to travel, but an Oregon accident attorney has spoken out on the dangers of using some discount bus lines. Now, the U.S. Senate has passed legislation which address safety deficiencies in these companies.

Senator Charles Schumer’s bill, recently passed by the Senate, means discount bus lines will now be required to inform potential passengers of their safety record. The bill also places an onus on the bus companies to improve on board safety.

The main features of Sen. Schumer’s bill include:

  • A requirement for the Federal Motor Carriage Safety Administration to establish clear, easily understood safety ratings. Those ratings would have to be posted on buses, in terminals and easily available from ticket sellers and any bus company point of sale.
  • The companies’ safety records would also have to be accessible and clearly posted.
  •  Electronic, on-board recorders which monitor drivers to make sure they are not exceeding hours of service regulations would be required on all buses. The hope is that fatigued drivers would be kept off the roads.
  • Better commercial driver training would be introduced, along with a nationwide commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry to ensure only qualified drivers who are physically qualified are driving buses.
  • Standard safety equipment which would become mandatory on all buses would include:
    • Safety belts
    • Anti-ejection glazing on windows to prevent passengers from being thrown out of the bus in an accident
    • Stronger, crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers
    • Improved fire protection equipment
    • Greater training in firefighting for bus operators

Legislation inspired by tragedies

These proposed changes come in the wake of several fatal bus accidents in which the discount tour bus industry played a key role.

In March, 2011, a bus crash on I-95 in the Bronx killed 15 people. Another 18 were seriously injured. It transpired after the smash that the driver, 40-year-old Ophadell Williams had apparently been driving 78 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Also in March, 2011, a Big Boy Coach crashed in New Hampshire. No fatalities were reported, but a number of passengers were seriously injured.

Two months later, in May, 2011, a Sky Express bus being driven by Kin Yeu Cheung, overturned in Caroline County, VA., killing two women from Queens, NY.

Of particular concern to Oregon accident attorneys is the ability of discount bus companies with clearly deficient safety records to continue to operate, with little or nothing (up to now) that could be done to stop them, or to let passengers know they were about to use the services of a company with a poor safety track record.

Toward the end of 2011, a bus company called Double Happiness was still carrying passengers, and none of them were aware of not just the company’s dismal safety records, but also of their frequent and flagrant violations of safety regulations. Under existing legislation, it is almost impossible for passengers to get an accurate idea of the safety records of discount bus companies. Sen. Schumer says the FMCSA has a ranking system on its website, but it’s difficult to navigate and not easily understood. And there’s no requirement to date that requires companies to post their safety records on buses or at ticket points of sale.

Schumer sees the remediation of that failing as being an integral part of his bill. “The Senate gets an “A” for passing this crucial bill that will finally alert passengers about bus company safety records before they buy a ticket,” Sen. Schumer said. “I urge the House to make the grade and pass the legislation immediately.”

Sen. Schumer said he would like the bill to lead the way in:

  • The FMSCA establishing a safety rating plan and letter-grade system for bus companies similar to that used to rate New York City restaurants, where potential customers can see a restaurant’s rating before they sit down to order a meal
  • Federal regulators being able—for the first time—to stop buses en route to inspect them for safety violations.
  • Greater powers for inspectors to crack down on unsafe carriers
  • Preventing the phenomenon known as “reincarnated carriers,” which are buses ordered out of service one day, only to return the next day under a new name

People using discount bus services have the right to expect safe and secure passage, regardless of the price they pay for their tickets. They also have the right to expect a highly trained, qualified and well rested driver will be behind the wheel. Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case, in Oregon and elsewhere across the country, and Sen. Schumer deserves great credit for directly addressing the deficiencies in the current system.

Have you been injured while using a bus service or other public transport? Were your injuries caused by driver negligence, inadequate safety equipment or poor security? If so, you should not have to pay your medical bills, and the bus company should be held responsible. Contact an experienced Oregon accident attorney. They can explain your rights and advise you of the feasibility of filing a lawsuit against the bus company. The consultation is free, and if you decide to proceed with your case, a good personal injury attorney will guide you every step of the way and get you the compensation you deserve.