For thousands of people in the United States, travelling by bus remains an affordable, reliable and relatively safe method of transport. Although buses are generally safe, the fact that these vehicles carry large numbers of people mean that if an accident does occur, the chance that many people will get injured or even killed is much higher than in accidents involving passenger cars. The safety of buses is affected by a number of easily monitored factors, such as adequate maintenance of the vehicle, a well run bus operating company, and driver safety. This article focuses on how the safety of buses in the United States can be improved.
Through investigations into the causes of bus accidents, the United States National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the two factors that contribute greatly to bus accidents are driver fatigue and bus operators that do not comply with government safety regulations. Drivers are often required to work for prolonged hours without adequate rest days, which leads to exhaustion and delayed response times while driving, or drivers that fall asleep while at the wheel. These events can have tragic consequences, resulting in the death or injury of bus passengers.
Corrupt bus operators also play a role in accidents. In recent years, there have been a number of cases investigated by the NTSB in which companies that were found to be unsafe by over sight agencies and placed out of service, would be re-incarnated using another business name and a new operations number from the US Department of Transportation.
Another problem that often arises in such cases is bus drivers that do not have adequate qualifications. Bus drivers need to have a professional driving permit, and should be closely monitored by bus operators to assess their on the job performance. Drivers should also have regular medical check ups to ensure that their health enables them to operate a vehicle safely. Any drivers that show reckless driving practices, do not have the required qualifications or are medically unfit should not be permitted to carry passengers.
Drivers and operators should cooperate to ensure that drivers are not over worked, with maximum working hours set by the federal Department of Transportation, to decrease the risk of driver fatigue. In addition, measures such as fatigue risk management programs and vehicle technologies that will alert the driver if he is veering out of the lane or approaching another vehicle can assist in decreasing the risk of accidents.