The former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board has spoken out about the three recent bus crashes in the New York area, at least one of which was probably due to driver fatigue and poor work conditions, given the fact that these were single-bus accidents involving no other vehicles. The buses apparently just went off the road.
As reported by WNYC, former chairman James Hall said, "They [industry and government] have treated the people who ride these buses as second-class citizens and given them second class safety." Hall was referring to a lack of "commitment" in efforts to prevent bus accidents - particularly those bus accidents involving budget operators.
Hall compared what has happened after crashes in two separate industries: long-distance bus operators and commuter airlines. In 2009, a "short-hop" commuter plane crashed in Buffalo and led to the deaths of 50 people. Regulations were tightened around short-hop commuter airlines after the crash. Long-distance bus operators, on the other hand, have never been the focus of tighter regulation. Hall goes on to say that attention needs to be paid to less-affluent citizens riding buses.
But Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, said, "There are a lot of regulations already in place. It's a matter of enforcement."
Hall, of course, disagreed, and said that the American Bus Association has never taken an aggressive approach to addressing safety issues.
Congress is examining a number of possible measures to address bus safety:
- Bus driver training that will conform to a national standard
- Regular checks on bus drivers (such as background checks, as a prediction)
- The installation of better or additional safety equipment
Despite the severity of the bus crashes (one of which killed 15 people), Pantuso worries about over-regulation. As WNYC reports, Pantuso argues that buses provide one of the safest modes of travel in the nation, which should "count for something."
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