A number of serious crashes in recent years have spurred close scrutiny of the tour bus industry creating a negative impact
Charter bus companies and their drivers have been held liable in horrific tour bus crashes that have injured and killed passengers as recently as last year.
On August 2, 2017 prosecutors in Merced County, California, filed four felony counts of vehicular manslaughter charges, along with five misdemeanor code violations, against driver Mario Davis Velasquez.
Velasquez was the operator of a tour bus that crashed on Aug. 20 on Highway 99 near Livingston. The bus struck a highway signpost, splitting the bus down the middle. The pole tore through the center of the bus; killing four people and seriously injured several more who required amputations.
An investigation by CHP determined that the driver was drowsy and allegedly falsified his daily log book. He had also used his cell phone repeatedly, in violation of the law, but was not using it at the time of the crash. The bus was owned by Autobuses Coordinados USA, of East Los Angeles, and was on a trip that originated in Mexico. After making a stop in Los Angeles and another in Livingston, the bus was traveling to Pasco WA.
In September 2017, another charter bus driver caused the deaths of one passenger, a pedestrian and himself when he ran a red light and struck a city bus in Queens NY. Raymond Mong was traveling at 62 mph at the time of the crash in Flushing. The NY Post reported that he was illegally employed by Flushing based Dahlia Motor Group Inc. The crash left 16 people seriously injured.
Dahlia failed to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of his employment, a requirement of state law, according to a DMV report. The report stated Mong had a prior arrest for DUI according to DMV spokesperson Tiffany Portzer. That charge resulted after Mong had caused a three-car crash in Connecticut in 2015. The MTA fired Mong following his arrest.
How Do You Find Safe Tour Bus Company
The best step to ensure your safety, when booking a group tour or signing up for a bus tour, is to choose a bus company that has been in business for a long period of time. The chances are much better that they will have a consistently good safety record. Tour bus companies that fail to maintain a satisfactory safety record will not remain in business for very long.
For assistance in the area of tour bus safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is there to help. Their website contains safety and security pages that include a safety database, providing a window into company profiles and safety initiatives.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense also regulate tour bus companies. The Department of Transportation, for example, requires tour bus companies to verify that their drivers are fully qualified. Those drivers that are proven to be qualified must hold a current commercial drivers license with a passenger endorsement, complete a thorough physical exam and have a valid medical certificate.
The Department of Defense (DOD) also regulates the tour bus industry because military personnel often use the buses for transportation and the DOD wants to ensure the safety of their troops. The DOD through the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) implements a pre-qualification process. Until the buses have passed an inspection by the MTMC, the military cannot use the transportation. Companies are accepted if they are rated from 1 to 3 on a five-point scale.
Determining Driver Safety
The driver of a bus is the one who is expected to have the skills to provide a safe and pleasant bus riding experience. Industry standards require a driver to have a minimum of three years experience driving a bus. Some companies require as much as five years. The more experience a driver has the better his or her skills should be. They should also be familiar with the route and the conditions they may encounter.
The driver should also have a schedule that allows for a regulated sleep schedule. A driver who is accustomed to nighttime sleep should adhere to that pattern. He or she should not be required to drive all night.
The bus company should be able to provide you with the safety records and experience of their drivers. If not, find another bus company.
The Bus Fleet
The age and maintenance of the tour bus fleet are something that should be taken into serious consideration. It may not be possible to personally inspect the buses, but the maintenance records and average age of the fleet should be available. Some bus companies replace buses after ten years while others may wait as long as 25 years. Unlike passenger vehicles, 100K is considered lower mileage in the tour bus industry.
Due to the reasonable cost and passenger comfort, bus travel is growing in popularity. While exciting destinations and recreational activities may be predominant in your thoughts and cost may be a key deciding factor, safety should be the highest priority.
Bus travel is, over all, a very safe option for travel, however one crash can kill or injure you or a loved one, adversely affect your travel group or, at best, ruin your vacation.
If you or a loved one were injured, or you lost a loved one, in a tour bus crash, contact a bus accident attorney at Vititoe Law Group today for a free evaluation of your case. We have the resources to thoroughly investigate the accident and determine exactly where the liability lies. Do not settle for any law firm; speak with a highly experienced bus accident attorney today. Contact us online or call 818-851-1886