Number of Bus Fatalities in the U.S. are Undercounted, Study Finds

The newspaper USAToday is chastising the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for undercounting the number of fatalities aboard the nation’s motor coaches therefore avoiding initiating tougher regulations. Between 1995 and 2009 at least 84 deaths of bus riders or drivers were not counted, found investigators for the newspaper who searched through government records and news reports.

With NHTSA reporting 133 motor coach fatalities between 2003 and 2009, the newspaper found an additional 32 deaths that weren’t counted and 42 deaths missing from the number of bus crashes between 2000 and 2009.

A spokesperson for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says by undercounting fatalities, the bus industry can tout itself as safer than it really is. With more than 750 million passengers traveling on motorcoaches each year, on average 20 are killed every year and more than 7,800 are injured. In a rollover, about three-quarters of the bus occupants who are killed, are ejected.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been looking into fatal motorcoach crashes for more than 40 years. For example, seat belts were first suggested by the NTSB in 1968.

In 2009, NHTSA released a Motorcoach Safety Plan requiring electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to monitor drivers’ hours and fatigue, along with a ban on using cell phones to text or call by motorcoach drivers. NHTSA also has electronic stability control, three-point seat belts, roof crush standards.

With these proposals and no action, Congress has introduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act (MESA) to address the lacking safety requirements of the motorcoach industry. That would include seat belts at each seat, an improved roof crush standard and anti-ejection advanced window glazing. Advocates is supporting the Motorcoach Enhances Safety Act (MESA) saying it’s about time to make motorcoaches a safe form of transportation.

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