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Fatal bus crashes may lead to increased safety standards, part two

Earlier this week, we wrote about the increased efforts of federal lawmakers and safety advocacy groups to require additional safety features in buses. The safety movement comes approximately one month after two deadly bus accidents in New Jersey and New York that took the lives of 17 bus passengers.

Several of the recent bus accident deaths occurred when passengers were thrown from their seats and out bus windows as the vehicle rolled over. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, adding seat belts to buses would reduce the risk of fatal injuries in bus rollover accidents by over 75 percent. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending that buses have seat belts since 1968.

But despite the fact that adding seat belts to buses would significantly reduce bus accident injuries and deaths, the initiative to require restraints has been met with resistance by tour bus companies and advocacy groups. The main complaint about requiring seat belts is that it would create a significant expense that could possibly put small bus companies out of business.

Several safety bills have been introduced in Congress. A bill that would require the installation of seat belts and other features has been opposed by the American Bus Association. The group claims that it could cost as much as $80,000 per bus to add the safety measures. However, an analysis of the standards shows that the actual cost would only be $10,000 to $12,000 per bus, which could be made up with a minimal ticket price increase.

Bus companies have supported a much less stringent bill, which would require the Department of Transportation to perform additional research before issuing new safety standards and which would give companies federal money and up to 18 years to comply with new regulations.

Even if Congress does not act, the NHTSA may issue a rule requiring lap-and-shoulder seat belts in all new buses. Regardless of the outcome, it is clear that this issue will get a significant amount of attention in the coming months.

If a member of your family has been injured in a bus or other accident, contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, "Montco man's death leads to call for bus-safety changes", Paul Nussbaum, 18 April 2011

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