SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced Senate Bill 247 today, which will adopt the safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board to reduce the number of preventable deaths caused by out-of-date bus safety standards. This bill would require charter buses to give passengers a mandatory pre-trip safety briefing that demonstrates where the exits are located and what to do in case of an emergency, mandate visible emergency exit signage, require installation of windows that can stay open during evacuations, emergency lighting and an event data recorder. These improvements would significantly increase passenger safety and prevent future deaths in bus traffic collisions.
“By making common-sense updates to bus safety practices, we can save lives. There is nothing that can excuse the tragic deaths caused by outdated, archaic bus safety regulations,” said Senator Lara. “It is unacceptable that our buses function under safety regulations that have not been updated since the 70’s. I am introducing this bill to prevent further needless deaths and injuries and further protect the safety of our children and families.”
On April 10, 2014 in Orland, California, a FedEx truck drove across an interstate median and struck a charter bus full of high school students from several Los Angeles communities who were on their way to Humboldt State University for a campus visit. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, between 1975 and 2012 there were over 11,000 fatal crashes involving buses, including 1,567 occupant fatalities. On average there are 8,000 passenger injuries per year from bus accidents. While accidents do not occur often, when they do, they have very high mortality rates.
In response to the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board conducted an investigation and released a report this week that found the fatalities were due in large part to inadequate exit systems and made a series of recommendations to improve bus passenger safety.
While accidents involving these vehicles are uncommon, when they do occur, they have a high mortality rate. Other high occupancy vehicles like airplanes, trains, and most recently limousines are required to meet far more stringent safety requirements than buses. In the disastrous Orland Accident, passengers were not given a safety briefing and over half the students were unaware of which windows were exits.
“We need to set the tone nationwide that it’s time to make changes to our bus safety protocols," Lara said.