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New Federal Rules are Intended to Improve Bus Safety


South Carolina has seen a considerable number of bus crashes given the large number of buses that head south through the state to Florida and back every year.

Last year a bus carrying band members from a Central Ohio school crashed in South Carolina.

Members of the Southeastern High School band were returning from a trip to Disney World when their bus crashed near Henderson, South Carolina, killing the driver.

Fortunately, the passengers were uninjured but a spate of high profile crashes has claimed the lives of bus passengers in recent years.

In May this year, four people were killed and others were injured when a passenger bus overturned on Interstate 10 in southern California.

In 2012, a tour bus crash in the Bronx, New York, killed 15 people and injured many more.

The crashes led to a crackdown on low cost tour bus operators and recently resulted in proposed new federal rules. At the end of last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a new federal motor vehicle safety standard to protect motorcoach and other large bus passengers in rollover crashes.

The proposal would improve the structural design of large buses to make sure that passengers are better protected in a deadly vehicle rollover by ensuring the space around the passengers remains sufficiently intact and the emergency exits remain operable.

"The consequences for passengers in rollover crashes are severe," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. "I want passengers to know that when this Department sees opportunities to make their travel safer so that they can more confidently visit their families or get to work, we are going to do just that and we believe this proposal is a step in that direction."

Under the new standards a rigorous performance requirement would subject new bus and motorcoach designs to a dynamic test in which the bus is tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface. The proposed standard would:

  • Make sure space around occupant seating positions is maintained in the designs to afford occupants a survivable space in a crash;
  • Require the seats on buses, overhead luggage racks, and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after the testing; and
  • Require emergency exits to be closed during the rollover test and operable after the test.

The proposed test procedure and performance requirements are closely modeled after the European regulations for large buses. The department is also finalizing requirements later this year for stability control technologies on buses, which would help prevent rollovers from occurring.

"The traveling public deserves safer service and peace of mind when they board a motorcoach or large bus," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "Stronger large bus structures, combined with seat belt use will help keep passengers secured and protected in the event of a crash."

As many as 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said the agency is also committed to further increasing motorcoach safety through stricter oversight, "in-depth investigations into high-risk companies," and by making sure drivers are properly licensed and medically fit for the demanding job.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus crash a driver or an operator may be liable in a lawsuit. Call our Columbia, SC personal injury lawyers at 803.748.9990.

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