In 1998 it was estimated that the total cost of bus accidents nationwide reached nearly $870 million annually, according to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which also reported that while the number of incidents had declined over a ten-year period into 2001 the number of injuries remained the same if not having increased since 2001.
Each year millions of individuals board buses or other forms of transit either to save money on gasoline, help the environment or simply to get from one destination to another. However, as public transportation becomes a more popular mode of travel, more individuals become at risk for being involved in a bus accident and developing bus or transit accident-induced injuries.
Additionally, the 2004 SSO Annual Report from the FTA also found that while ridership had increased significantly in a five-year period, fatalities were the highest they had been in a six-year period and were reaching 57 percent in 2004 alone.
There are a number of reasons and factors that can contribute to a bus or transit accident. The National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) and the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida recently conducted a study on how to improve and analyze bus safety. The researchers found that the following are several reasons for bus crashes:
* location of stop
* roadway surface type
* weather conditions
* traffic conditions
* operator status (as in a regular operator, mini-run, extra board, supervisor, etc.)
* transit vehicle movement prior to and during the time of accident
* vehicle defects at time of accident as well as last preventive maintenance
* movements of other vehicles during or prior to collision
* evasive action taken by driver
* passenger movement during or prior to accident
* pedestrian or cyclist movement prior to and during accident
* observed conditions of other driver/pedestrian/cyclist/passengers at time of accident
* additional contributory factors
Because of the extensive list of potential contributory factors that can be involved in a bus collision, it is important that steps are taken to decrease any incident that may occur. Sometimes, however, a bus accident can occur because of lack of adequate highway or roadway signage as well as other additional highway issues.
For example, a bus accident that killed five student athletes in March 2007 occurred because of poor roadway signage. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has since recommended that highway signage be improved by becoming clearer and more consistent. But this is just one step that has been taken and often has other drivers and passengers begging to know how to reduce the risk of a bus collision.
Improving Bus Safety
Currently, not all states require their transit systems to report and produce any type of system safety program plans. While the NCTR is working with several states to develop more significant bus accident data and tracking research, not much is being done to implement more significant safety measures that affect current passengers and vehicular drivers.
However the FTA along with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are working on a plan to reduce the number of bus accidents while improving transit safety. The plan is known as the National Intelligent Vehicle Initiative (IVI). In Pittsburgh, their work has contributed to an 80 percent reduction of claims after the bus authority implemented new safety equipment, including IVI, and procedures in buses.
Since the development of the IVI transportation plan, researchers from the group have reported that:
*42 state and local transit initiatives were on the ballots in November 2002
* More than 120 transportation corridors are seeking funding for the IVI plan
* Lane assistance technology (part of the IVI
transportation plan) may reduce the cost of an automated guideway transit (AGT) - a grade separated transit system running on wheels being guided (similar to a lightrail system) by up to 20 percent. An AGT commonly costs approximately $100 million.
Although the nationwide IVI plan is becoming more commonplace, there are an array of bus transit technologies being researched to decrease accidents, fatalities and injuries for bus accident victims.
For now, individuals can use the following steps and procedures to decrease a passengers risk for becoming injured because of a bus accident or bus collision:
* do not stand on a moving bus without holding on to proper safety bars or straps
* sit up straight on the bus
* do not engage in any activities that might distract
a bus driver
* avoid hanging items or limbs out of windows
* keep voices low and avoid loud, distracting conversations
* teach children to behave properly while on the bus and do not let them throw, run or partake in any horseplay
Additionally, individuals should avoid driving in bus lanes or designated bus stops as well as driving courteously but defensively on the road. If an individual is standing or walking near a bus stop or bus lane, remaining as far away from the designated bus area is advised.
Seeking Help When Involved in Bus Accident
Individuals who have been involved with a bus collision, may feel lost and alone. However, seeking medical attention and legal consultation can offer assistance in returning to normalcy in one's life. Specifically, an experienced bus safety and vehicular accident attorney will be able to offer insight into developing litigation to retrieve monetary compensation for damages caused during an accident. Most legal consultations are often provided free of payment to better assist a victim after their ordeal.