Alabama School Bus Accident a Tragic Reminder of the Dangers

Our Alabama personal injury lawyers note with sadness a school bus accident that claimed the life of a Southern Choctaw High School football player and injured 30 others. As we reported recently on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, the back-to-school season is a particularly dangerous time for bus accidents. When we think of school bus accidents, we often think of buses transporting children to and from school. But the truth of the matter is that many of these accidents occur when buses are traveling to or from sporting events or field trips. In fact, these are among the most dangerous trips — often occurring at night and on routes not normally traveled. Alabama troopers report the 15-year-old Silias resident died when the bus collided with a car and overturned. The accident happened about midnight near Coffeeville — some 20 miles from Southern Choctaw High. The Alabama Highway Patrol reports the driver of a 1999 Nissan Maxima ran a stop sign at Highway 84 and Alabama Highway 69. Troopers and sheriff's deputies were escorting the bus at the time of the accident. The crash remains under investigation. Tour Bus Accidents Are Also A Danger Along with the risk of school bus accidents, tour bus accidents in Alabama and elsewhere have also made news this year after several horrific crashes. Fifteen people were killed earlier this year in a New York tour bus accident as a bus was returning from a casino trip to the East Coast. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration immediately jumped into the fray with an enforcement blitz and a public relations campaign about how tough the government has been in enforcing safety regulations. "We have seen the tragic consequences of unsafe practices – whether it's ignoring fatigue regulations, providing inadequate driver training, or failing to conduct the proper maintenance of a bus or motorcoach," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We continue using all of the tools at our disposal to get unsafe carriers off the road and hope that Congress will act on our proposal to provide us with the necessary authority to expand our safety oversight." Still, a May crackdown that included 3,000 surprise safety inspections resulted in the removal of 442 buses and drivers from the road. In other words, about 1 in 6 inspections turned up violations so egregious that it warranted removing a bus or its driver from the road. "The public deserves safe passenger bus transportation every ride," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "FMCSA and its law enforcement partners will not rest until we weed out every unsafe passenger carrier and driver." What's clear is that the onus is on passengers when it comes to ensuring they have booked a trip with a safe and reputable operator. The rise of low-fare carriers has further exacerbated the problem. The Department of Transportation has unveiled "Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time," a bus safety checklist aimed at travelers faced with choosing a busing company. Considerations include safety performance history, safety rating, operating authority and insurance requirements and consumer complaints. The federal government has already outlawed bus drivers from texting behind the wheel and a ban on hand-held cell phones is under consideration. Other proposals include requiring new buses to be outfitted with seat belts and on-board data recorders to track service hours and compliance with other safety regulations.

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