Bus Safety: Is it Limited to Second Class Safety Standards?
From taking kids to school to getting employees to work or getting someone across the country to visit relatives, buses carry many different kinds of passengers. A recent string of deadly school bus accidents has safety advocates calling for more stringent oversight of bus safety.
Three of the most serious bus accidents in recent years lead to the deaths of 40 people, including one in Texas that left 17 passengers dead. Yet even after these accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration did not make significant changes to safety regulations. And it is not just passenger buses that are lacking in safety and inspection standards: school buses are also affected. While fewer than eight passengers die in school bus accidents, about 8,000 children are injured each year.
Federal rules require all commercial vehicles to be inspected every year. However, these inspections may be conducted by state employees, private garages, or the company operating the buses. State regulations governing the inspections are generally even less strict. In fact, more than half of all states have no inspection requirements at all. This allows the company operating the buses to do only what it thinks is necessary. But should an industry that is vital to the public be allowed to self-regulate and decide its own safety standards?
Congress is currently working on passing new legislation to increase the safety standards required for buses. The last attempt at toughening safety standards occurred with the Motorcoach Enhancement Safety Act in 2008. That act sought to require seatbelts on buses, but it did not pass.
The questions remain as to why bus passengers should be subject to second-class safety standards in comparison with the safety standards for other passenger vehicles. As these accidents are becoming more common, expect future rule changes which will attempt to make bus travel safer for everyone.