The Alabama Department of Public Safety will be conducting passenger-carrier safety inspections this week as part of the National Passenger Carrier Strike Force Initiative.
The Huntsville Times reported the national initiative sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration runs though Aug. 27. Whether you are choosing a motor coach for summer vacation, or teaching your child school bus safety, Alabama bus accident attorneys understand fall is a dangerous time for accidents involving passenger carrier vehicles.
Several high-profile bus accidents recently, including two fatal accidents this month in Illinois, have the safety of discount passenger carriers making news once again. The rise of discount carriers has increased the risk of busing accidents. Many of these operators save on overhead by offering curbside pickup, rather than providing terminals for passengers. However, the National Transportation Safety Board reports these curbside companies have an accident rate 7 times higher than traditional terminal carriers.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation shut down 26 bus operators after a year-long investigation found such curbside operators pose an “imminent hazard” to public safety. That particular enforcement effort targeted bus companies that transported 1,800 passengers a day between New York and Florida. The companies operated in Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Thirteen bus companies were targeted for continuing to operate after being ordered out-of service for safety violations.
“These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Safety is and will always be our highest priority.”
The government offers easy access to a busing company’s safety record. But consumers must make checking such records a part of their decision when choosing a company with which to travel. Download the U.S. Department of Transportation’s mobile bus safety app here.
In response to the popularity of such low-cost carriers, the FMCSA has doubled the number of inspections conducted each year to nearly 30,000. The agency passed a law in January 2010 that banned bus drivers from text messaging. A law that took effect in November, also bans them from using any hand-held cell phone device while behind the wheel.
FMCSA is now seeking greater authority to prevent dangerous or unsafe carriers from re-inventing themselves by opening under a different name. The passenger-carrier watchdog is also seeking more control over ticket agents, brokers and sellers, who are not directly involved as motor carriers. The advocate for passenger safety also wants new carriers to undergo a safety audit before opening and is looking to raise the maximum per-day fine against a passenger carrier from $2,200 to $25,000.
Still, you certainly can’t leave the safety of you and your family to the federal government. Busing companies are not created equally. Do your homework — whether riding across town or across country. Your safety very well may depend upon it. Parents must also discuss school bus safety with children who are headed back to the classroom.
-Alabama Department of Public Safety to inspect passenger carriers at Space and Rocket Center, By Chris Welch, The Huntsville Times, Aug. 13, 2012.