National Motorcoach Safety Summit to be Held September 23rd

Although motorcoach transportation is one of the most cost-effective, accessible and safe forms of public transportation, there has been a number of recent tragic crashes around the United States that involved motorcoaches and buses. In an effort to strengthen motorcoach safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the Department of Transportation will be holding National Motorcoach Safety Summit this September in Washington, DC.

The hope is to develop a plan to increase motorcoach safety awareness, enforcement, and education; establish innovative and collaborative policies and countermeasures; to exchange information and ideas on the best possible approaches to reduce the number of motorcoach crashes; standardize data sets; and forge new and collaborative partnerships. The strategic objectives for the National Summit are: Increase awareness of the importance of safety and enforcement among all stakeholders – industry, law enforcement, consumer groups, and safety advocates; Identify policy related barriers and develop opportunities for addressing targeted challenges; Develop tools and resources for educating and training on the maintenance, operations, and purchasing of motorcoach services; Energize and empower stakeholders, partners, and the public to take personal responsibility in making motorcoach transportation safer.

Leading up to the National Summit, a series of Regional Motorcoach Safety Roundtables were held within the past 2 weeks. The regional conversations were to provide a forum to exchange information and ideas on the best possible approaches to reduce the number of motorcoach crashes, injuries, and fatalities and raise passenger awareness.

The announcement of the National Motorcoach Safety Summit came just less than two months after U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) wrote a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urging him to take immediate action to prevent accidents similar to a deadly tour bus crash on I-95 in Virginia. Senator Webbs letter said that the Department of Transportations (DOT) enforcement efforts to date have been inconsistent and ineffective. The letter urged Secretary LaHood to promptly halt unsafe bus companies and implement new safety standards to prevent driver fatigue. Senator Webb noted that as of the date of the letter (June 9, 2011) 2011 had already seen at least ten motorcoach crashes resulting in more than 20 fatalities and over 130 injuriesincluding 15 deaths in a single tragic crash earlier this year in New York.

The recent crashes indicate the urgency in addressing these critical safety deficienciesimproving occupant protection with currently available vehicle safety technology as well as upgrading driver and operator oversight and regulations. The letter was joined by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA). Preliminary reports indicated that the I-95 bus crash in Virginia was caused by two key factors: driver fatigue, and the Department of Transportations (DOT) decision to give this clearly unsafe carrier a last minute reprieve from closure despite a pattern of safety failures and a determination that the carriers safety record is unsatisfactory. The senators letter noted that driver fatigue is the root cause of 37 percent of all accidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Although the relationship if any between Senator Webbs letter and the announcement of the summit is unclear, it is more than clear that Mr. Webbs thoughtfulness, sincerity, and devotion to common good will be missed in the Senate. We hope he finds a very public way to keep contributing.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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