World Wide Tour Bus Crash
Monday, October 31, 2011
By Jim O'Grady
(New York, NY - WNYC) So-called "Chinatown buses" that pick up and drop off passengers at the curb have more fatal accidents and fail more inspections than traditional larger carriers who operate out of bus terminals, according to a report by the the National Transportation Safety Board. Curbside carriers with fleets of ten or fewer buses that have been in business less than ten years tend to have the worst safety records of all.
The report, which begins by saying long distance bus travel remains generally safe, was prompted by an accident in the Bronx in March that killed 15 passengers.
A bus operated by World Wide Travel was returning to New York City from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut when it rolled on its side and hit the support pole for a highway sign. Investigators say driver Ophadell Williams was fatigued when the accident occurred at 5:37 a.m.
Williams, awaiting trial, has been charged with fifteen counts of manslaughter.
The report says driver fatigue is a major issue for "Chinatown" buses. It adds that buses leaving from a curb at various street locations are harder to track down and inspect than buses that use terminals. The report also says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which performs the inspections, has been overwhelmed by the rapid growth of the long distance bus industry, and that there are 1.15 inspectors for every 1,000 bus companies.
And there's a problem, the report says, with bus companies that inspectors put out of service for violations but which then "reincarnate" under a different name while selling tickets through the same online broker they used before.
"The NTSB report is a wake-up call that we need a more rigorous regulatory regime and it provides a blueprint for how to fill the gaps," said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer at a press briefing (video) held in New York this morning to about the report.
The Chinatown bus industry has grown rapidly over the last several years, even as it has been plagued by safety issues. "The fatal accident rate for curbside carriers from January 2005 to March 2011 was seven times that of conventional carriers," the report says.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) A second fatal bus crash in as many days has sparked renewed calls for increased regulation and safety oversight on so-called Chinatown buses. There just isn't that much oversight to begin with now.
The Super Luxury Tours charter bus flipped on its side while headed to Philadelphia from New York City's Chinatown. The driver was killed, along with one passenger. About 40 people were sent to area hospitals, according to police.The cause of the crash remains unknown.
Listen to a radio report on WNYC about bus regulations and these two crashes.
The second crash comes as National Transportation Safety Board investigators are set to interview the driver of the World Wide Tours bus that crashed on Saturday, killing 15. The driver of that bus, Ophadell Williams, has not been charged with anything at this time, but he has come under public scrutiny after his initial story was contradicted by passengers and witnesses. His driving record is also under review because, investigators say, he gave a false name several times when stopped for traffic violations in the past. Federal and state investigators want to know if that should have resulted in a suspension of his driving privileges and why the violations weren't linked to his commercial driving record.
New York Governor Cuomo said he's "asking the NTSB do a top to bottom review of this industry."
Right now there isn't all that much regulation of intercity bus companies, Chinatown or otherwise, says DePaul University transportation professor Joseph Schwieterman.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
A New York Fire Department spokesman said a tour bus overturned on the New England Thruway near the West Chester County line at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday. The World Wide tour bus skidded on its side into a sign post that sheered the roof off along the window line of the bus. (Photo) According to the New York Police department the cause of the accident is thought to be a tractor trailer that swerved towrd, or possibly hit, the tour bus.
The FDNY spokesman says the bus was carrying 31 to 33 passengers. He says in addition to the fatalities, six passengers were critically injured and four have been transported to hospitals.
The spokesman says 11 others sustained minor injuries.
Safety oversight on tour buses--and trucks--is sometimes difficult to execute and often inconsistently enforced according to The Center for Public Integrity's News21 report on tour bus safety. News21 cites the lack of a consistent federal system for enforcing safety regulations and the ease with which companies can skirt regulations by changing their names and re-incorporating as a new entity.
Family members needing more information regarding the accident can call 311 in New York City.
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