Bus / Motor Coach Accidents
Motor coach and bus accidents are some of the most disastrous on the road. Each vehicle carries up to 55 passengers, plus a driver. Students and senior citizens account for nearly half of all motor coach trips annually.
Although bus and motor coach transportation is popular among students, church groups, tourists, sports teams and many in urban areas, these vehicles are not really a great deal safer than passenger cars.
The Fort Lauderdale bus accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm, know that every single year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports approximately 20,000 injuries and 250 deaths resulting from bus-related crashes.
These accidents account for just 0.6 percent of all total auto accidents on U.S. roads. However, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Safety Research, the number of bus crashes per million miles traveled is 3.04, compared to 3.21 for passenger cars.
What’s more, these figures, gleaned from federal data, may not provide the whole picture. An analysis by USA Today found that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the agency responsible for tracking all accidents, undercounted motor coach accidents since at least 1995. The agency has even given inaccurate information on bus safety in testimony before Congress. In fact, at least 42 deaths of occupants and drivers in motor coach accidents from 1995 through 2009 were not reported by the NHTSA in federal statistics.
Meanwhile, the NTSB reports more than 605 million motor coach trips were taken in 2013, and about 63,000 buses were involved in accidents.
More than half of all motor coach mileage involves charter and tour buses. About one-quarter consist of scheduled buses, like Greyhound. The remaining balance includes motor coach service, special operations and airport shuttles.
Inner-city buses were nearly twice as likely to be involved in an accident, and charter buses were especially likely to have issues with driver error.Causes and Risk Factors in Busing Collisions
The most common risk factors for bus and motor coach accidents include:
- Drivers who are younger than 25
- Drivers who are older than 55 (especially those over the age of 65)
- Operators who speed over 65 mph
- Drivers who cross many intersections (i.e., urban bus and motor coach drivers)
- Drivers who are distracted
- Drivers who take risks
- Drivers who are tired and/or don’t follow the mandated hours of service guidelines
- Mechanical failures with the vehicle
The Broward County Transit service (often referred to as BCT) has a service area of 410 square miles and connects with Miami-Dade Transit, Palm Tran and Tri-Rail. There are 125,000 passengers who ride these buses daily, and there are 38 million trips annually along 291 fixed bus routes, on express and community buses and within Paratransit vehicles.
Although these rides are affordable – a single fare is just $1.75 – collecting damages from the government in the event of a crash can be challenging. It’s the same thing for school bus accidents, as those buses are also owned and operated by a division of the government. One must first overcome assertions of sovereign immunity, by citing an exception for which legal liability of the government is allowable. Then there is the imposition of a $300,000 per-accident damage cap (up to $200,000 per person). In order to collect anything additional, a special bill must be passed by the state legislature for each individual case.
In motor coach accident lawsuits against private companies, establishing liability and damages is usually simpler. Action can be taken against:
- Bus or motor coach driver
- Owner of the bus
- Bus carrier
- Booking agency
- Bus or equipment manufacturer
- Bus maintenance company
Motor coach and bus crashes are often catastrophic and often lead to multiple deaths. This is why the NTSB, which investigates these accidents, for years pushed legislators and the NHTSA (the policy makers) to pass more stringent safety standards.
Finally, the bipartisan Motor Coach Advanced Safety Act (MESA) was introduced in the House and Senate in 2010 and again in 2011. Those measures failed. But in 2012, provisions of MESA were incorporated into the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (or MAP-21), which was passed.
The legislation requires:
- Mandated seat belts on buses and motor coaches, effective November 2016
- Mandated rollover crash avoidance in new motor coaches
- Improvements in structural integrity for roof strength and passenger ejection prevention
- Assigned safety fitness ratings for each motor coach carrier and public access to those ratings
Many of these accidents have been high-profile, involving numerous casualties and injuries. That has helped spur action. But more must be done in order to ensure the safety of passengers and those who share the road.