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Private 'curbside' buses more likely to be in fatal accidents

October 31, 2011 | 11:11 am

Bus crash
This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Privately operated "curbside" buses are seven times as likely to be in a fatal accident as other interstate buses, according to a report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

The fatal accident rate for curbside operators between 2005 and March of this year was 1.4 per 100 vehicles, compared with just 0.2% for conventional bus operators, the report said.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) ordered the report in March after a bus returning passengers to New York’s Chinatown from a night of gambling ran off an elevated highway and hit a utility pole. The bus was split from end to end, killing 15 people and injuring 18.

Two months later, a bus from a company with at least 46 violations for driver fatigue in the last two years ran off Interstate 95 in Virginia on its way to New York’s Chinatown, killing four people and injuring 50. The bus operator, Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., was ordered to shut down, but was operating its buses under two other company names less than a week later.

Part of the problem when policing private bus safety and regulations, according to the report, is that there are only 2,327 state and federal personnel available to inspect 53,097 buses, and they have responsibility for other inspections as well.

"Curbside" buses pick up and drop off at their own designated curb spots instead of main transportation terminals the way companies such as Greyhound and Peter Pan do, according to an NTSB spokesman.

Further, intercity motor coach service has been described as the fastest-growing mode of transportation during the past few years, the report says.

[5:25 p.m., Oct. 31: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that there are 878 federal and state inspectors for about 765,000 private bus companies.]


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Photo: Emergency personnel investigate the scene of a bus crash on Interstate 95 in the Bronx borough of New York on March 12. The bus was returning to New York from a casino in Connecticut when it crashed, flipped onto its side and was sliced in half by the support pole for a large sign. Fifteen people died. Credit: David Karp / Associated Press