The Georgia State Patrol (GSP) recently completed their investigation into an April 10 charter bus accident that injured nearly 20 people on the bus. The investigation found that neither the bus company or the driver was at fault for the accident – the bus was properly maintained and properly functioning, and the driver has over 25 years of experience and a clear safety record. The GSP found that the accident was the result of the bus driver’s attempt to avoid striking a two-vehicle crash ahead of him on Interstate 75. Luckily, there were no severe injuries in this charter bus crash, but an earlier one in New York this year that killed 15 people returning from a Connecticut casino prompted swift federal action to increase regulation on commercial buses. United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced several new rules and proposals that would increase government oversight of commercial bus companies.USDOT Regulations to Increase Bus Safety
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) – an organization under the umbrella of the USDOT – has taken notice of the problem of passenger bus accidents. There are several provisions either just going into effect or that are being announced to make passengers on charter buses safer, including:
- Requiring commercial driver’s license applicants to first go through the process of obtaining a commercial driver’s learner’s permit by passing a test meeting standards established by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
- Allowing federal and state law enforcement agencies to team up to increase inspections of motor coaches throughout the summertime peak driving season, encouraging carrier companies to keep their vehicles in proper working order
- Releasing the “Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time” checklist that gives passengers the ability to review a bus company’s safety rating and accident history before booking a trip
- Ramping up enforcement of bus driver hours-of-service regulations
- Using data collected by the 2010 “Compliance, Safety, Accountability” Act to track companies with multiple safety violations and ensure improvement
What Happens if There Is a Bus Accident?
Given that the summer travel season is upon us – combined with the current high price of gasoline at the pump – bus riding is an increasingly attractive option for travelers. A personal injury attorney in your area can help you determine the cause of the accident, be it:
- A driver who is distracted (by a cell phone, laptop computer or other electronic gadget), eating behind the wheel, fatigued or suffering from a sudden health crisis
- Mechanical failure of a critical bus engine or steering component
- Negligent maintenance of the bus
- Reckless operation of another vehicle sharing the road with the bus
- A bus overloaded with cargo, passengers and/or luggage that becomes top heavy and causes the driver to lose control
In addition to finding out what caused the accident, an attorney can help to discover who is ultimately responsible for your injuries.