In recent years, the number of fatal interstate bus crashes has increased dramatically, resulting in numerous casualties and serious injuries. Many of these crashes could have been avoided, or at least resulted in far fewer injuries, if only greater safety standards for buses were in existence.
Dating back as far as 2005, bus crashes have made headlines because of the great scope of the tragedy they have caused. That year, 23 senior citizens being evacuated from Hurrican Rita danger zones were killed when the bus they were on caught fire, trapping them inside. An investigation later determined that the bus had been improperly maintained and its driver had an invalid license. In 2007, seven people were killed when a bus carrying a university baseball team drove off an overpass; in that incident, investigators believed that seatbelts would have saved many lives, yet the bus, like most of its kind, was not equipped with that safety feature. In 2008, 27 people were killed in two separate bus crashes; in one, investigators noted that the bus had insufficient safety features and in the other, the bus had an invalid license plate and registration and the driver was overtired. In 2011, a driver with a record of 18 suspended licenses caused a bus crash in the Bronx that killed 15 people; that incident led to the shutdown of a chain of unsafe bus companies, yet no bus safety laws have were passed by the federal government.
Some people argue that buses cannot be made any safer, yet most experts agree that making three specific safety features mandatory on all buses would save countless lives. The features are:
Seat belts keep people in place. When the force of an accident tries to propel bus passengers from their seats, hurtling them into danger, seat belts prevent this from occurring, mitigating or preventing injuries.
A major cause of injury in bus accidents is crushing by the actual structure of the bus. If a bus is given stronger support structures, with better pillars between windows and stronger roofs, the bus is less likely to collapse on passengers during an accident, thus saving lives.
In recent years, scientists have developed a special glaze that can be put on bus windows to prevent ejection in the event of an accident. Clearly, since being thrown from the vehicle is a major cause of bus-crash fatalities, making glazed windows a mandatory bus safety feature would save lives.
Three simple safety features could potentially save thousands of lives, but the government has still not passed pending bus safety legislation that would put these features in place. The personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin call on regulators to make bus safety a top priority so that the increasing trend of fatal bus crashes can finally come to an end.