Rep. John Lewis and Sen. Sherrod Brown Urge DOT To Act on Bus Safety
WASHINGTON – Following a series of recent high-profile bus crashes, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently sent a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) urging completion of several overdue rules to improve motorcoach safety.
According to the most recent statistics available, nearly 300 people are killed and 22,000 people are injured in bus crashes every year. In October of this year alone, 13 people died and 31 were injured in Riverside County, California, when a bus hit a truck. A charter bus driver was killed and 43 senior citizens were injured when a motorcoach collided with a tractor trailer in Georgia. In Maryland, six people were killed and ten people were injured when a school bus and a Baltimore transit bus crashed. Common-sense, proven safety measures could help prevent deaths and severe injuries in crashes across the country.
"Too many people die unnecessarily, when simple safety measures could make the difference between life and death," said Rep. Lewis. "These rules could save thousands of people from the anguish and despair of losing their loved ones or suffering disabling injuries. We need to make sure that all buses traveling on our highways are safe for the millions of Americans who depend on them for transportation and for the millions more who drive next to them."
“October’s bus crash in Riverside County, California is one in a long line of tragic accidents that underscore the importance of enforcing motorcoach safety standards,” Sen. Brown said. “DOT must finalize commonsense safety measures for all motorcoaches—seatbelts, stronger roofs, and safer windows—to help prevent deaths and minimize injuries. The time to act is now.”
Rep. Lewis and Sen. Brown began working together in 2007, after a fatal bus crash on Interstate 75 in Atlanta that killed seven people, including five members of Ohio’s Bluffton University baseball team. Together, they introduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, which called for new regulations requiring seatbelts, increased roof strength, anti-ejection measures, and rollover avoidance. This bill was passed and signed into law in 2012 as a part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
However, none of these critical safety rules were issued by DOT before the due dates set in the legislation by Congress. Some are still overdue. Others, like the rule requiring motorcoaches to add seatbelts, only apply to new buses, and not existing ones. This still leaves thousands at risks. The bus involved in an October bus crash in Riverside County, California, killing 13 people was not equipped with seatbelts, proven to save lives.
The Lewis-Brown letter calls on DOT to provide a clear timeline for finalizing and implementing these important rules. DOT has issued Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on roof strength, emergency exits, window retention and release, and anti-ejection glazing, but has not provided updates, though these rules were required to be issued by 2014. DOT also has not made a decision about fire prevention and mitigation standards in accordance with a study completed in November 2015.