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NTSB’s Most Wanted List: Improvements in bus safety

Written by Steve Gursten Posted March 30th, 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently released a list highlighting the most desirable safety improvements in American transportation. The NTSB “Most Wanted List” included better roads, more technology, fewer distractions and fewer impaired drivers.

The list also highlighted the need for improvements in bus transportation.

Recently, there have been several tragic, high profile bus crashes, like this one in California, that killed eight and injured nearly 40 people.

As attorneys who have litigated, written, and lectured in legal seminars on bus accidents, we have previously weighed in why this spike in bus accidents is occurring.

Specifically, the NTSB identified three recurring issues in these bus accidents:

  1. Fatigued bus drivers;
  2. Poor occupant protection;
  3. Marginal bus operators.

According to the NTSB:

“… bus operators continue to demonstrate unsafe operating practices, particularly those operators who have been placed out-of-service by oversight agencies and are then reincarnated under another name or with a new U.S. Department of Transportation number.”

The NTSB is a federal agency responsible for investigating all significant accidents across several means of transportation. It is charged by Congress with determining the cause of accidents, the safety issues involved, and recommending future action to prevent these accidents.

What can be done to ensure safety for people on  buses?

Here are some suggestions from the NTSB:

  • Have a qualified bus driver: Ensure that the professional motor coach driver is qualified.
  • Better training for bus drivers: Bus operators should review a longer, more comprehensive driving history during the hiring process and use video recorder information to assess on-the-job performance.
  • Have regular medical exams: Bus drivers should also undergo regular medical examinations by an authorized medical professional to ensure that they are fit to operate buses.
  • Limit hours on the road: Drivers and operators should also work together to limit hours of service to ensure that bus drivers have adequate opportunity for rest—and to institute measures, such as fatigue risk management programs and vehicle technologies, that can help drivers recognize and mitigate fatigue.
  • Motor carriers must demonstrate safety: New companies should be required to demonstrate their safety fitness before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) grants authority to operate.
  • FMSCA must focus on bus driver performance: When reviewing a company’s ongoing operations, the FMCSA should place greater emphasis on vehicle and driver performance, which are disproportionately factors in accidents.
  • FMCSA must verify unsafe bus companies are no longer operating: If the FMCSA determines that a company is not fit to continue operations, there should be methods for verifying that the company has ceased operating.

Bus accident statistics

  • There were more than 250 people killed in bus accidents in 2009.
  • There were more than 20,000 people injured in bus-related crashes in 2009.
  • There were 1,093 fatal accidents involving large buses, resulting in 1,315 fatalities and 3,471 injuries from 2000-07.

Large buses are often used to provide charter/tour scheduled service, commuter service and shuttle service.

Before you travel on a bus, it’s important to do your research to find the most reputable and safe company to travel with. Here’s a blog post our attorneys wrote on safe bus companies.

 – Source, NTSB: Improve the Safety of Bus operations; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Next week, I will be writing about the American Trucking Association’s support of the NTSB’s list.


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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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