Bus Crashes Call into Question Federal Safety Standards

The Utah bus crash that killed nine and injured 43 others in January of 2008, was followed by an investigation into the cause of the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded recently that driver fatigue was a contributing factor to the crash. More importantly, however, the Board concluded that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) failed to implement motorcoach passenger safety recommendations made by the NTSB in 1999 and that this failure was a contributing factor in the severity of the accident.

The recommendations made by the NTSB included on-board electronic recorders to monitor a driver's hours of operation and prevent fatigue, seatbelts to prevent passengers from being ejected in rollovers, stronger roofs and easy-to-open windows that don't shatter. Members of the NTSB are frustrated that the NHTSA has been so slow in implementing these safety standards. More recent accidents elicit the same concerns.

In January of this year a tour bus accident in Arizona killed 7 people and injured at least 10 others. It was reported that all but one of the passengers who died at the scene were ejected from the bus during the accident. It was also reported that the bus rolled at least once before stopping.

The bus accident that occurred just recently on April 29 in California killed 5 and injured dozens. Four of the passengers were ejected from the bus and fell over a guardrail some 60-70 feet onto a set of railroad tracks.

Both accidents call into question several of the proposed safety standards yet to be implemented by the NHTSA. Given that passengers were thrown from the bus in both accidents, it seems likely that the severity of the injuries sustained could have been mitigated if the NHTSA had implemented, at a minimum, the seatbelt regulations recommended by the NTSB a decade ago.