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PA personal injury lawyer calls for faster action on bus laws

daniel-munleyAccording to the Motorcoach Census 2013, a study commissioned by the American Bus Association Foundation, there were 39,607 motorcoaches in the United States in 2012, which transported 637 million passengers. Students and seniors accounted for 50% of these passenger trips.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) raised concerns about motorcoach safety decades ago in 1968, following a fiery and fatal bus crash. We’ve seen many horrific bus crashes since then, including another deadly fiery crash just last week, which took the lives of a group of students, and has raised even more concerns.

Regulators have not been quick to act on any of these concerns raised by the NTSB. In 1999, the NTSB issued new standards for large buses, also known as motorcoaches, so that after an accident, passengers can easily open windows and emergency exits.

In 2011, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman spoke at a congressional hearing, saying that regulators had not acted on the safety recommendations and speaking again about the need for federal regulators to issue new standards, so bus passengers could easily open windows and emergency exits.

The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011 required the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to develop new regulations for motorcoaches to be installed with safety seat belts at each seat, improved fire extinguishers or other firefighting equipment, anti-ejection measures, stability enhancing technology to help reduce rollover crashes, and direct tire monitoring systems. The Act also required the Secretary to prescribe regulations establishing improved strength and crush resistance standards for motorcoach roofs, and rollover crash avoidance technology. The Act also called for research and testing to determine the causes of and prevent motorcoach fires.

Pennsylvania personal injury lawyer says action is too slow in improving bus safety

Only one of the Acts recommendations has been implemented. In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule requiring lap and shoulder seat belts for each passenger and driver seat on new motorcoaches and other large busses. NHTSA stated that this new rule enhances the safety of these vehicles by significantly reducing the risk of fatalities and serious injuries in frontal crashes and the risk of occupant ejection in rollovers.

What about the safety standards to make these large buses easier for passengers to escape after a crash? In the bus accident just last week in California that killed 10 people, a passenger had to kick out a window for students aboard the bus to squeeze out, narrowly escaping before the bus burst into flames.

According to a recent statement by the NHTSA, which sets these vehicle standards, they have been working on bus evacuation regulations since 2007, but have not offered a proposal. They said that their aim is to ensure evacuation in adequate time under different emergency situations for various occupant groups, including children and the elderly.

Safety advocates complain that the NHTSA has historically been too slow to respond to safety recommendations involving motorcoaches and we agree. Accident investigators first recommended that motorcoaches be equipped with seat belts after the 1968 crash near Baker, California, that killed 19 passengers, yet that safety measure was not implemented until 2013.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a bus accident, a PA personal injury lawyer at Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys can fight for you. Call Dan Munley and the Munley team at 855-866-5529.

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