Tour and Charter Bus Accidents
A tour bus crash in New Mexico recently made headlines when 24 people were injured and at least three died. According to news reports, a car rear-ended a disabled pickup truck. The bus driver lost control while trying to avoid the car. The bus rolled over before being sideswiped by a semi.
With four vehicles involved, it will take time and a diligent accident investigation to allocate responsibility for the injuries sustained by the victims. The pickup truck driver might have been negligent if he had a chance to pull off the road but failed to do so, or if he should have known that the truck was not roadworthy. The car driver might have been negligent for failing to observe the disabled pickup before colliding with it. The bus driver may have been negligent for failing to maintain control of the bus, and the semi driver may have been negligent if the sideswipe could have been avoided.
Our best wishes for a full recovery go out to the survivors, and we extend our sympathy to the families of the accident victims who died. Unfortunately, bus accidents occur too frequently, particularly when the bus involved is owned by a tour bus or charter bus company.
Charter Bus Accidents
Charter busses and tour busses have been involved in several recent accidents. Charter busses are often hired to transport church groups, school band members, Boy Scouts, and members of other organizations. A charter bus carrying 46 students recently plunged into a ravine in Alabama, killing the driver and causing serious injuries to at least ten passengers. The company that provided the bus has been involved in four crashes in the last 24 months, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Any bus can be involved in an accident. Municipal busses, school busses, and busses owned by large transportation companies like Greyhound are all involved in accidents from time to time.
Tour and charter busses, however, pose a significant concern because they tend to be older and not as carefully maintained as busses operated by larger companies and municipal governments. Regulations that took effect in 2016 require newly manufactured busses to have seat belts, but the regulations do not apply to older busses. The seat design of most older busses makes seat belt installation difficult. Thousands of older busses have no seat belts, so passengers are often thrown from their seats in a crash.
Drivers hired by small companies also tend to be less experienced than commercial drivers who work for larger companies. Some tour operators do not check the safety records of their drivers and do not provide appropriate training. On occasion, they even hire drivers who do not have a valid commercial license. Some companies expect drivers to operate busses for more than ten hours a day, in violation of federal regulations.
Casino Tour Bus Accidents
The nationwide expansion of the casino industry has contributed to the explosive growth of low-cost bus services that take groups, including retirement center residents, to and from casinos. The NTSB launched an investigation of casino tour busses because so many have been involved in crashes. Among other examples:
- A bus traveling from a casino in Thermal, California to Los Angeles in 2016 crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer, killing the driver and 12 passengers and injuring 30 more.
- A bus traveling to a casino rolled over in South Texas in 2016, killing eight people and injuring 44 more.
- In 2017, four passengers died and 39 were injured in Biloxi, Mississippi when a bus taking passengers from Bastrop, Texas on a multi-state casino tour became struck on railroad tracks and was hit by a train.
Some of the bus companies involved in casino tours have poor safety records. Some of their busses have failed brake inspections. The emergency exits on some casino tour busses have been found to be inoperable. Unfortunately, the NTSB doesn’t have the capability to conduct frequent inspections of every bus that companies use to transport individuals on casino tours.
Accident injuries are almost never the fault of bus passengers. Injured passengers and the families of deceased passengers have the right to seek compensation from responsible parties. In the case of tour and charter bus accidents, the bus company is responsible for the negligence of its drivers and for its failure to maintain busses in a safe condition. A personal injury lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven, GA trusts, can identify responsible parties and help accident victims and their families recover the compensation they deserve.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Law Firm for their insight into bus accident cases.