Early Sunday morning, the most recent mass casualty casino bus crash occurred in southern California. A shocking 13 people died and dozens more suffered catastrophic injuries in the horrific collision.
The bus driver who slammed into the back of the stopped 18 wheeler was going so fast that the bus ripped a gaping hole in the back of the semi and came to a stop 15 feet inside its trailer.
Investigators have already determined that the tread on multiple tires were worn down so low that they were far below federal safety standards.
“The vehicle was out of compliance with Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance inspection criteria, and it could have been placed out of service,” an NTSB board member reported yesterday.
In addition, since the driver never applied his brakes, driver fatigue was another cause of the deadly collision, all too common in these early morning bus and other commercial vehicle collisions.
This was an accident just waiting to happen. The bus was old. It was manufactured 50 years ago in 1966. The bus company driving it only operated this one bus. However it was not allowed to be on the road No one had apparently inspected the bus or its tires recently. Further, the driver was obviously unqualified.
As if that weren’t bad enough news, you can bet that the company has inadequate liability insurance. The minimum required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is $5 million. This will not be enough to pay the damage claims of the families of the 12 passengers (not counting the driver) who died and the many others who were seriously injured.
Why do so many bus collisions like this happen? According to the FMCSA, an estimated 3,290 crash each year. That’s incredible.
Why are insurance limits so low?
And more importantly, how can we stop these crashes from happening over and over again?
Two Texas Bus Crashes And Many Others Show Need For Greater Enforcement
In May, a Dallas jury awarded $10.9 million against the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma in a lawsuit filed by the families of an 83-year-old and 69-year-old who died in a 2013 crash in Irving. The driver was taking a bus load of senior citizens to a casino in Oklahoma on the George Bush Tollway early one morning when he suddenly lost control of the bus and crashed into a concrete barrier. Twenty passengers were also injured. The driver’s excuse? He said he blacked out. How could that happen?
Also in May, eight people were killed and 44 others were injured outside of Laredo when their casino bus crashed. Investigators found 15 safety violations.
And in New York City five years ago, a bus driver was dangerously sleep deprived when he jerked the bus and caused it to flip. The bus was torn in half. 15 passengers were killed and dozens of others sustained devastating injuries.
These four bus crashes were so horrific they made national headlines. But, there are likely hundreds more close calls and smaller accidents that weren’t sensational enough to grab media attention.
Bus Companies Are Violating Safety Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service regulations prohibit bus drivers from driving too many hours in one day, which is typical in these one day casino bus trips. Bus drivers are limited to 10 hours of drive time after taking at least 8 hours off and must stop driving at the 15th hour upon coming on duty.
The FMCSA needs to immediately conduct an inspection of all of our bus companies and to ground fleets that do not comply with maintenance, hours of service, and other crucial safety rules.
A bus ride should not end in tragedy.