Evidence shows that bus passengers in Illinois and nationwide run a higher risk today than in the past. Whether due to poor oversight, poor bus design, maintenance problems, or inattentive operators, the level of safety on the average commercial bus is far from what it should be. If these issues are not corrected then there will be a continued rise in the number of injured and killed passengers and tragic bus crashes.
One way to stem the increase in passenger injuries and deaths could be an increase or stricter enforcement of regulations in place to protect the traveling public. Poor reinforcement of the current regulatory structure has resulted in an environment where a bus company and its drivers operate freely without any fear of consequence.
Another measure is to increase safety features. Research has proven again and again that an increase in safety features can increase survivability in bus crashes. Yet commercial buses are not nearly as safe as they should be. Unlike safety measures taken in airplanes or cars, advances in passenger safety on buses have been slow. There are many ways to make buses safer.
For example, seat belts have been standard on both airplanes and automobiles, but not on buses. Incredibly most buses are not even equipped with seat belts.
Buses could also be made more crash worthy. The strength of a bus roof depends on its support structure. The pillars between the windows of the bus are critical. The bus manufacturers have enlarged their vehicles’ windows for the convenience of passengers, but the support structure for the roofs has been compromised.
In recent years, there had been some highly publicized tragic incidents that have called attention to the problem of bus safety.
In 2005, 23 elderly citizens from the Houston area were killed while evacuating their homes in anticipation of Hurricane Rita. The chartered bus caught fire just outside of Dallas and trapped many of the victims on board. Investigators determined that the bus had not been properly maintained and that the driver did not have a valid U.S. driver’s license.
In 2007, seven people were killed and another 28 injured when a bus carrying a college baseball team from Ohio flipped off a freeway overpass near Atlanta. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that passengers’ seat belts may well have saved some of those lives.
In another tragedy, in August 2008, a chartered bus from Houston crashed near Dallas with a church group. Seventeen passengers died and at least 33 were injured. The preliminary indications were that a recapped tire had been illegally placed on the steer axle of the bus. Investigators noted that enhanced safety equipment might have reduced the number of deaths and the severity of the injuries.
In October 2008, a bus carrying 45 passengers overturned on a railroad overpass in Northern California killing 10 and injuring many more. The bus had an invalid Texas license plate and an invalid registration. The driver of that bus was suspected of driving under the influence.
There are too many needless deaths and injuries on America’s highways involving buses. A commitment to bus passenger safety would yield comparable gains in crash reductions and save lives if safety features were installed and mandated.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois personal injury and wrongful death cases for over 30 years, serving Cook County and its surrounding areas including Park Ridge, LaGrange, Oak Lawn and Winnetka.