To mark tenth anniversary of the tragic Bluffton University bus crash on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sent a letter to the new Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, to continue their efforts to encourage the federal government to implement safety improvements to buses in America.
According to the most recent statistics available, nearly 300 people are killed, and 22,000 people are injured in bus crashes every year. Common-sense, proven safety measures could help prevent deaths and severe injuries in crashes across the country.
"I hope that the Secretary acts quickly to finish these vital rules that will protect the millions of passengers who rely on buses every year. Simple safety measures like these could make the difference between life and death and save many people from terrible injuries. We must make sure bus passengers are safe," said Rep. Lewis.
In the aftermath of the Bluffton crash, Rep. Lewis and Sen. Brown introduced the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, which called for new regulations requiring seatbelts, increased roof strength, anti-ejection measures, and rollover avoidance. This bill was passed and signed into law in 2012 as a part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).
However, none of these critical safety rules were issued by DOT before the due dates set in the legislation by Congress. Some are still overdue. Others, like the rule requiring motorcoaches to add seatbelts, only apply to new buses, and not existing ones. This still leaves thousands at risks. The bus involved in an October bus crash in Riverside County, California, killing 13 people was not equipped with seatbelts.
The letter calls on DOT to provide a clear timeline for finalizing and implementing these important rules. DOT has issued Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on roof strength, emergency exits, window retention and release, and anti-ejection glazing, but has not provided updates, though these rules were required to be issued by 2014. DOT also has not made a decision about fire prevention and mitigation standards in accordance with a study completed in November 2015.