A recent crash involving two double decker buses in New York that made national news is another in a long line of motorcoach and large bus accidents in recent years. Many of these bus accidents have involved shady tour bus companies with poor safety records. Against the background of the recent New York crash that caused eleven injuries, the U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed new regulations designed to protect occupants of motorcoaches and large buses during rollover accidents.

The proposed regulation is designed to establish minimum standards to ensure sufficient survival space and reduce ejections in rollovers. The proposal is designed to provide better protection for passengers on buses and motorcoaches by improving the structural design of these vehicles so the space around occupants remains sufficiently intact and the emergency exits continue to function in rollover crashes. The performance standards and tests are similar to those imposed by European countries for large buses.

The proposed standard would establish performance requirements that new buses and motorcoaches would need to meet when subjected to dynamic testing that involves have a bus tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard flat surface.

  • Seats, window glazings, and overhead luggage racks must remain affixed to their mounting during and after the rollover;
  • Sufficient space must be maintained to provide occupants with survivable space during the test;
  • Emergency exists must not open during the rollover and must function properly after the test.

These new standards will reinforce other recent rulemaking standards designed to protect passengers from the potentially deadly impact of bus rollovers. For example, the DOT is in the process of finalizing a rule later in the year that that would require equipping motorcoaches and large buses with stability control technology to reduce the risk of rollovers occurring.

The traveling public takes about 700 million rides on commercial buses annually, so improved standards for bus durability during rollover crashes can protect a multitude of passengers. The federal government also has taken other steps to make buses safer. In addition to standards designed to improve the structural integrity of buses, the federal government has taken other measures in the wake of tour bus crashes in recent years according to the NHTSA that include: (1) stricter oversight, (2) closer scrutiny of licensing requirements, (3) placing high-risk bus companies under closer scrutiny and (4) ensuring that drivers are medically fit.

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