In less than a month, the northeast saw four serious tour bus accidents, three of which involved fatalities. This alarming recent trend has caught regulators’ attention.
- On March 12, 15 passengers were killed when a bus heading to New York City’s Chinatown from a Connecticut casino crashed into a pole in the Bronx, slicing through the bus.
- On March 15, a tour bus driver and passenger were killed (dozens injured) when a bus also heading to Chinatown from Philadelphia crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike.
- On March 21, 23 people were injured (five seriously) when the driver of a tour bus heading to Boston from Quebec lost control on a snowy New Hampshire highway.
- On April 2, one man was killed and another seriously injured when the men fell out of a bus heading back to Massachusetts from New Hampshire, apparently from alcohol-inspired horseplay.
These incidents prompted New York State to set up tour bus safety checkpoints throughout the state. At one Manhattan checkpoint, 16 of the 26 buses stopped during three days were put out of service because of driver and/or vehicle violations. Outside New York City, 25 of 138 inspections resulted in violations taking the bus out of service.
Inspectors look at both the driver and the bus. Major driver violations include licensing and medical issues, as well as problems with the driver’s mandatory logbook. Logbooks are of significant concern because drivers must record their time behind the wheel to ensure they do not drive fatigued. However, logbooks are so disregarded in the tour bus industry they are often referred to as “comic books.”
Serious bus violations include issues with lights, windshield wipers, suspension, tires and emergency exits. The inspections were unannounced even though state law requires two inspections annually for each bus. This is no small feat considering this totals 161,000 inspections each year.
New York State Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said, “While the actions of a few should not tarnish an important and reliable industry, the memory of those who lost their lives . . . demands that additional action be taken to safeguard the traveling public.” Hopefully that additional action will have teeth.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bus accident, contact an experienced vehicle accidents attorney to discuss your case.