Thousands of large commercial buses make their way around the tri-state corridor on a regular basis, taking untold numbers of passengers to nearby destinations. Some are heading from Philadelphia to the shore, others are taking people to the sites in Delaware and many more take people to destinations far outside of the area. All of this activity makes the passenger bus a common sight on the roadways, giving off the impression that it's a safe method of transportation. Sadly, the truth is often otherwise, what with bus line owners pushing their equipment and drivers to and beyond safe limits of operation. No bus operator is immune from bad practices as demonstrated by the four accidents suffered in 2016 by a well-known national name.
Low- and normal-cost operators are always under pressure to turn a profit at all costs. In turn, this translates into cutting corners, such as pushing drivers past the federal operating limits and not maintaining equipment properly. The National Transportation and Safety Board has cited operators countless times for infractions, but many of these operators take the line of thought that they will push limits until they are caught, then pay the fine. It seems like that the safety of the passengers isn't given much of a thought when it comes to making money by tour bus operators.
Regular maintenance is something that bus operators should be engaging in by law, but reality is sometimes quite different. Bus riders don't have to be concerned with a mechanical break down so much as they need to worry about the condition of the tires. Many a fatal bus accident has involved worn tires that needed replacing. The worn tires blow out, the driver loses control of the now unwieldy vehicle, and the bus crashes. It could be that the bus rolls over, throwing people around and out of the windows, or it smashes into a bridge support, even into a semi stopped ahead. The end result is that the potential for a fatality is very high, and the amount of injured is easily going to be in the double digits.
Driver fatigue is the other issue that causes bus accidents. Federal law requires that a driver cannot be behind the wheel for more than 10 hours at a time, and that the driver must have an eight-hour rest period beforehand. A driver must be off duty after being on for 15 hours. If a driver has been working 60 hours in seven consecutive days, the driver may not be behind the wheel. But, despite these regulations, bus drivers are regularly pushed beyond their physical limits, don't receive proper medical checks and are ticking time bombs. All it takes is for a driver to lose their focus because they are tired, or even fall asleep behind the wheel for tragedy to strike.
It's not unusual for an investigation of a bus accident to find the cause to be either driver error or poor maintenance. Knowing that the accident didn't have to happen makes it all that much worse for survivors of the incident, and the relatives of those who lost their lives.
It is possible to ensure a safe trip simply by looking up the tour bus operator's history online. Seek out complaints from previous passengers, keep an eye out for any news reports that involves that particular bus line and check the website of the NTSB for accident data. Don't always pick a tour operator on price point alone, even if the goal is to save a few dollars. Being proactive before buying a ticket can make all the difference between a safe journey and one fraught with danger.