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It was the year 1968. As citizens were ringing in a new year, a law was implementing to mandate a revolutionary new safety device – seatbelts. But, this law had one exception; it did not apply to buses.

Deadly bus accidents over the past decade have claimed dozens of lives, including skiers in Utah, college baseball players in Atlanta, and, most recently, the fatal New York bus accident that killed 15 and critically injured several others. These accidents have exposed serious weaknesses in bus safety and have sparked reminders that we must never be complacent in safeguarding the public and promoting the highest level of safety in bus safety.

The technology exists to prevent many bus accidents and to make it more likely passengers will survive those that do occur, but government regulators have failed to implement safety recommendations that in some cases stretch back decades. In November 2009, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a plan for issuing regulations that address many of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations. The only one that has been fully implemented is a ban on texting by bus drivers. The department also proposed rules requiring seat belts for all bus passengers and electric onboard recorders, and a ban on handheld cell phone use by bus drivers while driving. Those rules have are still not final.

Buses and motor coaches remain a popular and cost-effective way for millions of Americans to travel. The New York accident has rekindled interest in bipartisan legislation that would require regulators to act on long-standing bus safety recommendations. The time has come to, at minimum, require seatbelts on buses. Electronic devices should be installed to monitor driver fatigue. Why does the technology exist to prevent many bus accidents, and reduce injuries and fatalities in the event that one does occur, yet regulators fail to implement any of these safety measures? Additionally, we need better training for bus drivers. The “Bus Uniform Standards and Enhanced Safety (BUSES) Act of 2011” was recently proposed which will increase safety and strengthen the U.S. Department of Transportation’s oversight and ability to set uniform safety standards on new and existing buses. To ensure that drivers are well-trained, the BUSES Act:

  • Establishes minimum training requirements for drivers seeking a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Encourages USDOT to review States’ current requirements for earning a CDL with a passenger endorsement
  • Improves oversight of the heath of CDL drivers and CDL medical certificates

It has been long enough. If these proposals had been implemented, we might have been able to prevent some of these recent fatalities.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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