The words safety and bus transportation are not synonymous. Travel by automobile in California is getting safer and efforts to increase safety in heavy truck transport are showing results but buses are left behind. Bus accidents have the potential for significant injury and damage. Their size and capacity are factors that increase this potential, particularly in inclement weather. The majority of injuries in bus accidents are caused by rollover and without restraints such as seat belts the passengers are not protected.
Seat belts are not required on buses and according to safety regulators, 70 percent of all deaths are caused by a passenger being ejected from the bus during a rollover accident. Following a bus crash in the late 1960s when a drunk driver crashed into a bus killing 19 people, the Department of Transportation advocated for seat belts to reduce fatalities in bus accidents. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration called for 3-point lap-shoulder belts to be installed by manufacturers on all new buses. The older buses are not mandated to install seat belts. There were no requirements in the bill to make passengers use the seat belts since this must be legislated by the states. Since there are nearly 29,000 large buses transporting close to 700 million passengers, there will still be potential for injury due to ejection of passengers from buses. By contrast, seat belts in commercial buses have been mandated in Europe since the 1990s.
In 2011, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 283 fatalities occurred on buses along with 24,000 injuries nationwide. Statistics from NHTSA, show buses may have low visibility on the right side resulting in a large number of collisions on the right. The causes of a bus accident vary from lack of maintenance to driver error and poor training for drivers. Passenger cars often veer into the bus lane and pedestrians may step in front of the bus. The bus company has a responsibility to assure the safety of its passengers by taking every precaution possible. This includes a strict maintenance policy and adequate driver training protocols.
When someone suffers injuries in a bus accident or loses a loved one, they may benefit from consultation with a Riverside bus accident attorney. Loss of wages, incapacitation either short-term or long-term, significant medical bills, and other long-term issues related to the accident may be addressed. If the bus company was negligent in terms of upkeep or duties which contributed to the accident, then punitive damages may be considered.