When you ride the bus, you’re probably not thinking much about whether or not it’s safe. You just want to get from point A to point B, and if you don’t have a car of your own, the local metro is the easiest – and cheapest – way to do that.
Unfortunately, buses aren’t safe. Take a quick look around the internet and you’ll find all kinds of stories about recent crashes. After a bus was hit by a car this past December in Austin, TX, 13 riders had to be evaluated and two people went to the hospital. In London, 20 people were injured when a bus plowed into a tree. And Manila saw 17 people die when a bus drove off of an elevated highway and landed on a van beneath it.
Now, some of those accidents are so serious and violent that hospital visits and even deaths aren’t surprising, but at least some of the problems might have been less severe if buses weren’t missing safety features that have been available in cars for decades. Adding an airbag for every passenger is probably out of the question, but why aren’t there even seat belts?
“It Comes Down to Money and Design”
That’s according to Business Insider, which also goes on to say that “compartmentalization” on buses makes seat belts unnecessary. What does that mean? Essentially that the seats are designed to be close together and absorb the impact of a crash. Of course, this particular article is talking about the reason school buses don’t have seat belts, because many metro buses are not designed in this “compartmentalized” way.
Even taking that into account, it doesn’t explain why this supposedly great design didn’t prevent 25 children from being injured in this accident in West chester. Or why 19 more students had to go to the hospital after a Winston-Salem bus accident.
Because buses are so top-heavy, what most often happens in a bad accident is that the vehicle tips over on its side or even rolls over. You’ve probably heard about this kind of crash in relation to SUVs in the news, along with public outcry that it’s a design flaw that needs to be fixed. Well, now imagine that kind of problem occurring with ten times the passengers in a vehicle that’s much, much larger and doesn’t have any way to keep riders in their seats. At best, people are thrown around the interior of the bus; at worst, the accident causes them to be thrown from the vehicle.
Experts say that seat belts on buses wouldn’t save enough lives to make it worth the cost of adding them, but that argument doesn’t really gibe when you’re talking about people being tossed around and even out of buses. In fact, one of the most common ways that bus passengers are killed is by being thrown from the vehicle. Though seat belts aren’t going to stop every kind of problem, doesn’t that seem like something they could help with? The fact that manufacturers know this is a problem in accidents involving buses and still refuse to fix it is a kind of negligence.
The Long Fight Just Keeps Getting Longer
Forty-five years ago a drunken driver in California ran into a bus taking people to Las Vegas and killed 19 people. Investigators, no surprise, said that a lack of seat belts contributed to the number of fatalities. It probably wasn’t the first time something like this happened, but it’s the big accident that bus safety advocates always point to as getting the conversation started. Since then, groups like the National Transportation Safety Board have continually argued for adding seat belts on buses and strengthening the windows to keep people from flying out during a crash, but so far their pleas have been ignored.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury from a bus accident, this is important information for you to know. Why? Because the pain and suffering that you had to undergo could have been prevented, and you deserve compensation for bus companies’ negligence. If rational calls to make buses safer can’t get the job done, perhaps getting more people to fight back with an expert and take money out of their pockets will. One thing is for sure – no sane person wants 45 more years of similar bus accidents.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphy. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “Super Lawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”