Rules lag to help passengers escape crashed buses

JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
View Comments
Emergency crews look over wreckage from a crash between a semi and a tour bus on Thursday, April 10, 2014, on Interstate 5 near Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/The Record Searchlight, Greg Barnette)

Emergency crews look over wreckage from a crash between a semi and a tour bus on Thursday, April 10, 2014, on Interstate 5 near Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/The Record Searchlight, Greg Barnette)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Safety standards to make large buses easier for passengers to escape after a crash have not been implemented, 15 years after accident investigators called for new rules.

A tractor-trailer truck and a bus transporting high school students collided late Thursday near Orland, Calif. Ten people were killed in a fire that consumed both vehicles. Someone kicked out a bus window, and many of the 40 or so students aboard squeezed through before the vehicle burst into flames.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates transportation accidents, recommended in February 1999 that federal regulators issue new standards for large buses, also known as motorcoaches, so that after an accident passengers can easily open windows and emergency exits.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman raised the issue again at a 2011 hearing, saying the recommendation is one of many related to motorcoaches that regulators haven’t acted upon.

Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky  Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. The FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a grassy freeway median in Northern California and slammed into the bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)

Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. The FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a grassy freeway median in Northern California and slammed into the bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)

Legislation passed by Congress the following year asked the Transportation Department to conduct research and testing on ways to prevent or mitigate fires in motorcoaches, as well as improve evacuation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sets vehicle standards, has been working on bus evacuation regulations since 2007, but it has not offered a proposal yet, the agency says.

“Unfortunately, motorcoach safety has historically been an orphan at NHTSA,” said Jim Hall, the former accident board chairman who signed the 1999 recommendation. “This is the transportation that carries primarily older people, students and low-income people. It hasn’t been a priority (for regulators).”

Motorcoaches carry about 700 million passengers a year, comparable to the domestic airline industry.

___

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,185 other followers