Could Your Bus Ride Be Deadly? Lessons from 3 Bus Disasters

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Many of us consider the bus to be an efficient and affordable way to get around. For Pennsylvanians, SEPTA can help them travel around the state while for New Jerseyans, NJ Transit is a major player. Additionally, there are a number of private commercial bus services focusing on long-run journeys between cities like Megabus, Boltbus, Greyhound and more.  While some people take the bus for the convenience and relaxation, others take it because it is less expensive than the gas, tolls and wear-and-tear on their car. Finally, still others select the bus due to environmental reasons and as part of their part to reduce their carbon footprint. Whatever the reason that you decide to ride a bus, it is important that you remain alert and aware of your surroundings while you ride. Bus collisions, while not a common occurrence, is a real concern as driver fatigue, mechanical failure, or driver incapacitation all can easily cause a crash. Unfortunately, when a crash involving a bus occurs, it has the potential to be a disaster simply because of the number of people on board.

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Lack of Driver Experience and Poor Maintenance can be Deadly

We can begin our look at bus disasters with the infamous 1976 Yuba City Bus disaster. While this was far from the first bus disaster in the United States, it did seem to stay in the national consciousness perhaps due to the tragic circumstances involved. A 26-year-old Crown bus was chartered for the a capella choir of Yuba City High School. The choir’s destination was a nearby high school where they would participate in a friendship day. On their journey, the bus driver took an unscheduled exit from the highway, but on the off-ramp, the bus’ compressor drive belt failed to leave the vehicle without any brakes. Unable to stop the bus careened into and over the guardrail plummeting around 30 feet before landing on its roof. The accident claimed the lives of 28 students and one advisor. The tragedy was last memorialized in 2011 for its 35th anniversary. Here driver inexperience and inadequate maintenance of an aging vehicle contributed to causing this accident. However, improved maintenance and better driver training could have possibly prevented this tragedy.

Quick-Thinking and Bravery Prevents Philadelphia Bus Disaster

The passengers of an August 2012 Megabus departing from Philadelphia thought that they were lucky because it appeared that they would arrive in Pittsburgh early. But their true luck would only become apparent after the driver became incapacitated after she passed out at the wheel. At first, the passengers were not aware that the driver had passed out. However soon the driver’s distress became clear. One passenger on the upper deck of the bus remarked that they could feel the bus swerving. When he looked, they could see that the bus was moving erratically from lane to lane. The bus driver had passed out with her foot still on the gas causing the vehicle’s speed to increase from around 50 to about 70. At this moment, it seemed that an accident and potential disaster was nearly assured. However, according to passengers, two 18-wheelers  that appeared to coordinate their actions of CB radio swooped into action. The trucks pulled up on the bus and positioned themselves one on each side to box-in the bus and prevent it from swaying. Simultaneously a passenger on the bus with a CDL had run to the front to help the driver. He was able to gain control of the bus and pulled to the side of the road. Here, quick-thinking and heroic actions by two bystanders and one passenger averted a crisis and potentially saved the lives of the 50 people onboard that bus. To protect passenger safety, bus drivers should be screened for conditions that could cause unexpected capacity. However, sometimes warning signs are missed and safety issues are left unaddressed. This shows the importance of vigilance on the part of passengers in preventing bus disasters.

The Deadliest Drunk Driving Accident in U.S. History

Most people are horrified when they consider the damage a drunk driver can inflict. Typically people picture an accident attributed to DUI as one where a single vehicle is involved or one between 2 passenger vehicles like a car, truck or SUV. However, the effects of a drunk driver can be felt by all vehicles that are sharing the roadway – including buses. In May 1988 a nearly 70 members of a church youth group and other church members were slated to visit the Kings Island amusement park. traveled on the church’s bus which was a former school bus to the park where they spent the day presumably enjoying the parks many attractions and thrill rides. On the ride home from the park, the bus stopped to fill its 60-gallon fuel tank before getting back on the interstate. While on Interstate 71 the bus was hit head-on by a pickup truck driving the wrong way on the highway. It was later determined that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident.   While it did not appear that any had been killed by the initial violent crash, the crash had caused a mechanical chain reaction that punctured the fuel tank of the bus. The fuel ignited and the bus quickly turned into an inferno as the flammable seat covers and seat padding ignited. People attempted to evacuate the bus, but in their panic, they became jammed in the aisle and unable to reach the back emergency exit. 27 passengers on the bus lost their lives while 34 suffered an injury of some type.

Drunk driving can result in truly horrific tragedies when buses and other high-capacity vehicles are involved. If you have suffered an injury on a local or interstate bus, you may have a claim for compensation. Contact The Reiff Law Firm today to see if our services are a good fit for you by calling (215) 246-9000 or by contacting us online.

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