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Making buses safer in Colorado

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On Oct. 23, 2016, a tour bus on the way back from a late-night casino trip, carrying passengers who were no doubt bleary-eyed or dozing after their evening, crashed into the back of a semi near Palm Springs, Calif. The bus driver and a dozen passengers lost their lives. Many more were seriously injured. At the time of writing, the question remains whether the driver was just as bleary-eyed, or had himself dozed off at the wheel.

The CNN report quotes Officer Jim Abele:

"In almost 35 years I've never been to a crash where there's been 13 confirmed fatalities. So, it's tough. It's tough for all of us."

Gaps in safety regulations

A few days after the crash, the Los Angeles Times followed up with a report on "gaps in safety regulations," which range from the lack of seat belts on most buses to brake failures stemming from improper maintenance. Investigation following the Palm Springs crash revealed that this wasn't the first time the driver made a mistake. The driver (who also owned the bus) had faced wrongful death lawsuits in the past from crashes he caused.

The Times quotes former National Transportation Safety Board chairman Jim Hall:

"We don't invest into doing an adequate job to protect people from incidents like this," Hall said. "That individuals who ride buses are at lower income levels of our society concerns me. We should ensure that we have the same safety standards for everyone."

As compared to airline passengers, who are exposed to a heavily regulated, heavily monitored industry, bus passengers don't even have the safety benefit of seat belts.

On the bright side

On the bright side - a little brighter, at least when it comes to school buses - a CBS Denver report describes Colorado's "rack and load test," which makes school buses safer by requiring that the frame of the bus maintain its structural integrity in the event of a crash. In 1971, a brake failure led to the deaths of eight J.V. football players and their coach. This was prior to the rack and load test. Subsequent school bus crashes in Colorado, post rack and load, have seen much less loss of life.

Sources:

Police: "No appearance of braking" in deadly bus crash (CNN)

Tour bus crash that killed 13 underscores gaps in safety regulations (Los Angeles Times)

Colorado crash changed how school buses are made (CBS Denver)

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