Discount Buses Bring Increased Risk of Death and Injury to Passengers

The ramifications from a Megabus crash in Chicago, Illinois, in August that killed one person and injured 47 people continue. Illinois State Police suspect the crash was the result of a tire blowout and not necessarily driver error. The parents of the single fatality from the accident, a graduate student killed in the crash, recently brought a wrongful death suit against Megabus, Coach Leasing and the driver of the bus for improper maintenance and a failure to inspect the bus and its tires. The suit seeks over $1 million in damages.

The Illinois crash was, sadly, not the first or last death in 2012 resulting from a bus crash. Deaths from commercial buses have increased along with a rise in discount bus travel in recent years. In 2011, nearly 30 people lost their lives in commercial bus accidents and many more became injured.

Bus Crashes Increasing
Bus travel used to be much safer. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there averaged no more than 10 fatalities from bus crashes annually. However, bus travel increased drastically in the late 1990s, Executive Director of the Bus Industry Safety Council Norm Littler told Popular Mechanics. Many smaller companies were more concerned with profit than safety, Littler noted, which led to a relaxation of safety standards.

In the 2000s, nearly 251 fatalities occurred in 67 accidents, a study by the American Bus Association revealed. Most of those took place on carriers that had previously been cited for safety violations or were new to the bus carrier industry.

Discount Bus Safety Gaining Notice
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in charge of regulating commercial bus safety. Because of the evolving nature of the industry, the FMCSA has had difficulty keeping up to the task. This has led to instances where the safety of certain bus companies has been called into question. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the FMCSA should have shut down Sky Express, a discount bus operator, before a fatal 2011 crash. In that case, Sky Express did not have written safety policies or information on seat belts and mobile phone use. For these practices the FMCSA had rated the carrier as “unsatisfactory” before the crash occurred.

Enforcement Stepping Up
In the Spring of 2011, several prominent accidents, among them a 14-fatality crash that took place in New York, prompted the FMCSA to step up enforcement. On August 24, 2012, the FMCSA issued a press release announcing several advancements in its Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. In the press release, FMCSA Administrator Ferro noted that 4,000 people per year die in large bus and commercial truck crashes, and wrote that the increased focus on safety will make the CSA “even more effective.”

Talk to an Attorney
For people injured in a commercial vehicle accident, the consequences can be devastating. Those suffering from such a crash should immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney in order to discuss their legal options, including monetary damages for medical bills and lost work.