Bus Accidents: Beware the Low-Cost Carrier

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)  has found that so-called curbside bus companies, which pick up riders on sidewalks rather than in terminals, are involved in bus accidents involving fatalities at seven times the rate of traditional carriers like Greyhound. On September 8, 2011 Grazian and Volpe wrote of a recent NTSB study finding that bus accidents involving fatalities were greater than expected and appeared to be under reported (myaccidentlaw.com/blog 9/8/2010). As the initial report involved all bustypes,this latest study is more disturbing because it focuses on only”curbside” buses. The curbside carriers first gained popularity in urban areas, such as Chicago, by offering frequent rides betwen major cities for as little as $1 a seat. Popularand catering primarily to students and budget-conscious travelers, these carriers have racked up an alarmingly high number of fatal accidents and safety violations over the last few years. While the report found that low-cost bus companies were a safe mode of travel and that accidents happened infrequently, the bus accidents that do occur, were far more likely than traditional carriers to result in serious injury or wrongful death.

The report suggests that the reasons for the increased rate of serious injury and wrongful death is related to the disproportionate (by industry data) larger number of violations issued to these companies relating to driver fatigue and training errors. In addition, the industry has exploded due to the depressed economy. Regulators indicate that it is more difficult to inspect low cost buses because they do not park in traditional terminals and officials must locate and inspect these buses on crowded street corners. Since they are barred from inspecting buses in the middle of a scheduled trip, it is difficult to conduct the surprise inspections necessary to determine the true operating procedure of any motor carrier. Apparently, many drivers and owners of low-cost bus companies do not speak English, and their records are often kept in other languages. Officials are concerned that this language barrier may mean that some owners and drivers do not fully understand the federal regulations and how to comply.

We reported in our previous article (myaccidentlaw.com/blog) that the Transportation Department, which has oversight of the motor coach industry, had nearly doubled its safety inspection on buses in the past five years and recently issued rules banning bus drivers from talking on cellphones or sending text messages while driving. However, this increase in enforcement and regulation is not applying to the low-cost bus carriers.

Grazian and Volpe has advocated for the rights of victims of bus crashes in Chicago and South Chicago for over 25 years. We have noted an increase in clients who are involved in bus crashes involving low cost carriers. Fortunately, we have not seen a wrongful death but have noted that the injuries sustained are serious injuries often involving brain injury and/or spinal injury. We hope this report will act as a wake-up call to Congress and the National Transportation Safety Board and more inspections and pro-active regulations are promulgated to protect the lives of those using these low-cost providers. Please follow Grazian and Volpe on website or on WCIU, You and Me in the Morning the first Tuesday of every month where we take questions and inform out viewers on how to stay safe and if they have been involved in an accident-how to make sure they obtain the best compensation possible.

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