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July 28, 2010

More Than 1,800 Florida Bus Accidents in 2009

Several Florida bus accidents, ranging from school buses to church vans, have made national headlines in the past few months. In February, a tour bus accident in Lake Placid, Florida, killed two people and injured over 30. During the spring, a string of three Disney bus accidents - all within 2 weeks of each other - resulted in eight injuries and one death. More recently on July 17th, a Pompano Beach resident was killed and several passengers were injured when a church van crashed on the Florida Turnpike after the driver lost control of the vehicle. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 1,812 bus (a vehicle with over 15 passenger seats) accidents in Florida in 2009 -- 19 of which were fatal.

Driver Negligence a Common Cause of Bus Accidents
While many factors may contribute to a bus crash, including mechanical defects, one of the most common causes is driver negligence, whether it is the bus driver's negligence or another vehicle driver's. According to reports, the February Lake Placid tour bus accident occurred when an 81-year-old woman hit the bus after failing to yield, which caused the bus to overturn. The woman was cited in the accident but has not been charged. She was not injured in this accident, which resulted in two deaths and over 30 injuries.

The Disney bus accidents were all caused by different factors. In March, a Disney bus struck a charter bus that was parked in a through lane. The driver of the charter bus was not injured, but eight passengers in the Disney bus were injured. The FHP is investigating the possibility of mechanical problems with the Disney bus. In April, a 9-year-old boy from Florida was killed when his bicycle hit the side of a Disney bus, causing the bus to run him over, according to reports. The boy was riding his bike in the Fort Wilderness area of Disney World with a friend. They were both wearing helmets and riding on the sidewalk. It was unknown why the boy veered off the sidewalk until further investigation by the FHP found that an underinflated front tire and flat back tire on the boy's bike caused the accident. Another Disney bus accident that took place in April involved an 80-year-old driver who hit the back of an SUV that was stopped at a red light. The impact caused the SUV to rear-end a van. The bus driver was cited for careless driving.

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April 24, 2009

Danger of Injury to South Florida Bus Riders

Florida residents are no strangers to bus accident injuries whether they occur on interstate motor coaches, school buses, or city buses.  Just yesterday, a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy collided with a school bus transporting children from West Glades Middle School in Parkland.  The deputy and two children were taken to the hospital for evaluation according to reports.  This accident and numerous other bus accidents throughout South Florida underscore the necessity for improved safety features and stronger regulation in the bus industry.

Glaringly absent from almost all buses are seat belts.  Although seat belts have been standard mandatory equipment in automobiles for years, they are still not required safety equipment in all buses.  Seat belts help prevent injury by performing two functions of crashworthiness: restraint of the occupants and prevention of ejection.  Despite their large size, bus collisions and rollovers transfer a great deal of energy to the passengers causing them to be ejected from the passenger compartment or slammed against interior surfaces.  The implementation of seat belts on buses would help prevent injuries by restraining the rider within their seat, but critics say such implementation would increase bus weight and not be cost-effective.

A less obvious danger, however, lies in the roofs above the riders' heads.  In order to increase passenger comfort, bus windows are being made larger and larger.  These large windows contribute to decreasing the integrity of the roof and the survival space.  When these large windows are not made of ejection-resistant glazed glass, the passenger compartment is compromised and passengers are more susceptible to being ejected through a larger area.

These short-comings can all be correct by readily available technology.  However, preventable bus accident injuries will continue to occur unless strict regulations are in place and enforced.  There is proposed legislation to help correct some of these shortcomings such as the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Acts of 2009 which seeks to improve passenger protections and increase driver training and credentialing.

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