Testimony by Orland Bus Crash Survivor Helps Advance Lara Bus Safety Legislation

January 13, 2016

SB 247 will increase passenger safety and help reduce future injuries and deaths in bus traffic collisions by implementing federal safety recommendations and closing the gap in safety standards with bus transportation

 

 
SACRAMENTO, CA —Sweeping bus safety legislation authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) cleared the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee today by a bipartisan vote of 7 - 0. Senate Bill 247 will adopt the safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to reduce the number of preventable deaths caused by out-of-date bus safety standards. The bill would require charter buses to give passengers a mandatory pre-trip safety briefing that demonstrates where the exits are located, 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.

“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 There is nothing that can excuse the tragic deaths caused by outdated, archaic bus safety regulations,” said Senator Lara. “We cannot stop accidents from happening, but we can help reduce tragedy and that's what this bill aims to do. I look forward to working with the bus industry to make this a reality. "
 
Testifying in support of the legislation was Santiago Calderon, a first-year Psychology student at Humboldt State University who was in the charter bus that collided with a FedEx vehicle 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.
 
"I'm here today so that nobody should have to go through what I went through in Orland," said Calderon. "I was only able to make it out because I saw a light at the back of the bus which was completely dark because of smoke. If I hadn't seen that light, I may not be here today. I hope this bill passes so no family has to go through what mine did, or even worse, what the students who didn't make it did."
 
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 last year 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.
 
“The Federal government has been in receipt of the NTSB recommendations for some timebut have done nothing about it," added Lara. "California will."