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Lower Prices Come With Higher Fatal Accident Rate

Curbside buses pick up passengers from street corners, parking lots and more spots than conventional bus operators, but also have a fatal accident rate seven times higher than other types of interstate bus operators, the Associated Press reported on October 31, 2011. According to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board that we mentioned in our post yesterday, the fatal accident rate for curbside operators between 2005 and March 2011 was 1.4 per 100 vehicles, compared with just 0.2 percent for conventional bus operators.

The AP noted that the curbside bus industry has expanded rapidly in recent years with fares typically are under $30, but more than half of the companies have been in business for 10 years or less, and 44 percent have 10 or fewer buses. Furthermore, state and federal inspectors told the NTSB that curbside operators, as well as their drivers, often do not speak English well even though understanding the language is a requirement for a commercial driver’s license. Over half the violations cited in orders to shut down curbside operators involved language deficiencies, according to the AP.

According to Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, 33 people have been killed and 452 others injured in 23 interstate bus accidents this year. The NTSB report also said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is also responsible for reducing truck accidents, is overburdened. The AP reported that 878 federal and state inspectors oversee 765,000 bus companies, which averages slightly more than one inspector for every 1,000 companies.

Other problems the AP highlighted in the report include:

  • Drivers falsifying their logbooks to evade limits on the number of hours they can drive
  • “Reincarnated” carriers who continue to do business after being ordered to shut down
  • Incorrect addresses and phone numbers that make it difficult to schedule inspections
  • Information gathered on bus companies is often incomplete or out of date.

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