Category Archives: Motorcoach

Add a Day of Remembrance for a Balanced Holiday Season

By Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt

Every year, I hear that the holiday season has gotten too long—that holiday music, commercials, and sales begin too early. Traditionally, the season starts on Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November.

 

I think the season should actually start even earlier this year—on the third Sunday in November, World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. Why? Because to truly give thanks for what we have, we have to imagine losing it. Around the world, about 1.3 million people lose their lives in automobile crashes every year; 20 to 50 million more survive a crash with injuries, many of which are life-altering. Here in the United States, annual traffic deaths number around 37,000—more than 100 a day—and a motor vehicle crash is the single most likely way for a teen to die.

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If you’ve lost somebody to a crash, you probably need no special reminder. Your loved one will be missed at the holiday dinner table, on the way to the home of a friend or out-of-town relative, and throughout the holidays. But for the rest of us, the Day of Remembrance is a time to think of those needlessly lost on our roads.

I encourage us all to go beyond remembering those lost in highway crashes, to thinking of victims of transportation accidents in all modes who won’t be joining family and friends this holiday season. Before we give thanks next Thursday, let’s take a moment to remember those who have been lost, and then take steps to make our own holiday travel safer.

By Car

Fatigue, impairment by alcohol and other drugs, and distraction continue to play major roles in highway crashes. Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and those around you safe on the road.

  • If your holiday celebrations involve alcohol, ask a friend or family member to be your designated driver, or call a taxi or ridesharing service.
  • In a crash, seat belts (and proper child restraints) are your best protection. Always make sure that you and all of your passengers are buckled up or buckled in!
  • Make sure to use the right restraint for child passengers, and be sure it’s installed correctly. If you have doubts, ask a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Make sure you’re well rested! A fatigued driver is just as dangerous as one impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
  • Avoid distractions. In this video, survivor-advocates share their stories of personal loss—and the changes they’re working for now.
  • Don’t take or make calls while driving, even using a hands-free device. Set your navigation system before you start driving. If you’re traveling with others, ask them to navigate.

By Bus or Train

We’ve made recommendations to regulators and industry to improve passenger rail and motorcoach operations and vehicle crashworthiness, but travelers should know what to do in an emergency.

  • Pay attention to safety briefings and know where the nearest emergency exit is. If it’s a window or roof hatch, make sure you know how to use it.
  • If you’re unsure of where the exits are or how to use them, or if you didn’t receive a safety briefing, ask your driver or train conductor to brief you.
  • Always use restraints when they’re available!

By Air or Sea

Airline and water travel have become incredibly safe, but these tips can help keep you and your loved ones safe in an emergency.

  • When flying, make sure that you and your traveling companions have your own seats—even children under age 2.
  • Don’t forget your child’s car seat. The label will usually tell you whether your child car seat is certified for airplane use; the owner’s manual always has this information.
  • If you don’t know the rules for using a child’s car seat on your flight, call the airline and ask what you need to know.
  • Pay close attention to the safety briefing! Airline and marine accidents have become very rare, but you and your family can be safer by being prepared.
  • Whether you’re on an airplane or a boat, know where to find the nearest flotation device.

This holiday season, no matter how you plan to get where you’re going, remember that, for many, this time of year is a time of loss. Honor survivors and remember traffic crash victims by doing your best to make sure you—and those around you—make only happy memories on your holiday travels.

Travelers, Put Safety First this Holiday Season

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By Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt

At the NTSB, we’ve investigated many tragic transportation accidents that could have been prevented with some planning, forethought, and good decision making. As we mark the beginning of the holiday travel season, we want to encourage all Americans to make it their goal to arrive safely at their destinations, so we’ve boiled down some lessons we’ve learned that the traveling public can use.

By Car

Fatigue, impairment by alcohol and other drugs, and distraction continue to play major roles in highway crashes. Here’s what you can do:

  • If your holiday celebrations involve alcohol, ask a friend or family member to be your designated driver, or call a taxi or ridesharing service.
  • In a crash, seat belts (and proper child restraints) are your best protection. Always make sure that you and all your passengers are buckled up or buckled in!
  • Make sure to use the right restraint for child passengers, and be sure it’s installed correctly. If you have doubts, ask a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Make sure you’re well rested! A fatigued driver is just as dangerous as one impaired by alcohol or other drugs.
  • Avoid distractions. In this newly released video, survivor-advocates share their stories of personal loss—and the changes they’re working for now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jNYECrlzGU&feature=youtube.
  • Don’t take or make calls while driving, even using a hands-free device. Set your navigation system before you start driving. If you’re traveling with others, ask them to navigate.

By Bus or Train

The NTSB has made recommendations to improve passenger rail and motorcoach operations and vehicle crashworthiness, but travelers should know what to do in an emergency.

  • Pay attention to safety briefings and know where the nearest emergency exit is. If it’s a window or roof hatch, make sure you know how to use it.
  • If you’re unsure of where the exits are or how to use them, or if you didn’t receive a safety briefing, ask your driver or the train conductor to brief you.
  • Always use restraints when they’re available!

 By Air or Sea

Airline and water travel have become incredibly safe, but these tips can help keep you and your loved ones safe in an emergency.

  • When flying, make sure that you and your traveling companions have your own seats—even children under age 2.
  • Don’t forget your child’s car seat. The label will usually tell you whether your child car seat is certified for airplane use; the owner’s manual always has this information.
  • If you don’t know the rules for using a child’s car seat on your flight, call the airline and ask what you need to know.
  • Pay close attention to the safety briefing! Airline and marine accidents have become very rare, but you and your family can be safer by being prepared.
  • Whether you’re on an airplane or a boat, know where to find the nearest flotation device.

No matter how you travel, you deserve the benefits of the lessons we’ve learned through our investigations, but you need to play an active part to take advantage of them. This holiday season, make a commitment to put safety first.

 

Safer Motorcoaches, Coming to a Community Near You

By Debbie Hersman
Motorcoach seats with lap and shoulder seat beltsAlthough motorcoach travel is extremely safe and crashes are rare, when they do occur, many people may be injured or even killed, especially if they are ejected from the bus. According to NHTSA, 45% of fatalities in motorcoaches result from passengers being ejected from the bus during a crash. Seat belts are a simple and easy way to safely keep people in the bus.

The National Transportation Safety Board first called for seat belts to be installed on motorcoaches over four decades ago. Over the last 45 years, we investigated accident after accident where improved occupant protection could have prevented fatalities and injuries; so we reiterated our recommendation, testified before Congress, and advocated for voluntary safety improvements within the industry. Last week, NHTSA announced a long-awaited final rule requiring seat belts on motorcoaches. We are encouraged that NHTSA included many large buses that previously were not required to have any protection for passengers.

NHTSA’s final rule requires adjustable seats belts for all passenger seats on new motorcoaches starting in 2016. While implementation of the rule is still three years away, we know that many manufacturers, including MCI, Prevost, Setra, and Van Hool, have already voluntarily installed seat belts and other critical safety features in their buses. As a result, you may soon travel on a large bus that has lap and shoulder belts at all passenger seats. Ask for buses with seat belts. Look for the belts on buses and wear the belts properly during the entire trip. It just may save your life.

Cherry Blossoms and Tour Buses

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By Earl F. Weener

Nothing marks the beginning of spring in the nation’s capital like the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This week, events to celebrate the 101st anniversary of the gift of the trees will begin.  Over the next four weeks more than one million people are expected to visit Washington to take part in parades, parties, exhibits, performances and, of course, to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Many of those visitors will travel by motorcoach.

There has been a lot of attention lately on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s crackdown on inadequate bus operations. One of the most recent actions revokes the operating license of Ming An, a carrier that sells cheap rides to cities in Virginia, Georgia and Florida.  FMCSA found that the company failed to conduct pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, allowed unqualified drivers to operate their vehicles, and did not conduct vehicle safety inspections, all of which federal regulations require.

While cost is often an important issue when choosing a motorcoach carrier, it should not be the only concern. There are plenty of low cost carriers that do not sacrifice the safety of their passengers in order to offer a low fare. Check the operators’ recent Federal safety rating. Look for operators with vehicles that offer enhanced occupant protection systems such as lap and shoulder seat belts. The US Department of Transportation maintains the SaferBus smartphone app to assist consumers with making a safe choice. 

For decades, the NTSB has been concerned with the operations of bus companies. The NTSB has investigated numerous accidents in which we found that an important step in improving bus safety is to ensure that professional motorcoach drivers are qualified. The NTSB recommends that bus operators should review a longer, more comprehensive driving history during the recruitment/hiring process and use video event recorder information to assess on-the-job performance. Bus operators require government authority, their drivers require professional driver’s licenses, and their customers pay for service. Accordingly, bus passengers deserve the highest level of safety.

For additional information on the NTSB’s accident investigations and recommendations to improve bus safety visit the Most Wanted List web page, Improve the Safety of Bus Operations.

Ten Ways to Improve Transportation Safety

By Debbie Hersman

Next Wednesday is the single-busiest travel day in the United States. AAA projects 43.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more during next week’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including 39 million people in automobiles. That’s more people in cars than live in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana combined.

That’s a lot of people on the road. Tragically, it also means a lot of empty seats at Thanksgiving tables since, historically, about 500 people have been killed in highway crashes during the long holiday weekend.

In my eight years at the NTSB, I have been at 19 major accident scenes. There is nothing that makes the point about the importance of family and friends than seeing how things change in the blink of an eye.

Things can change that quickly.

But, we can do better.

Doing better to improve the safety of transportation is part of the NTSB mission. Over the years, the NTSB has investigated thousands of accidents across all modes of transportation. The Most Wanted List focuses on areas where critical changes can reduce transportation accidents and save lives. This week, we unveiled the new list for 2013.

Several items on the 2013 list address improving highway safety:

Eliminating Substance-Impaired Driving

Eliminating Distraction in Transportation

Improving Fire Safety in Transportation

Improving the Safety of Bus Operations

Mandating Motor Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technology

Preserving the Integrity of Transportation Infrastructure

The new Most Wanted List also addresses four other aspects of transportation safety:

Improve the Safety of Airport Surface Operations

Improve General Aviation Safety

Implement Positive Train Control Systems

Enhance Pipeline Safety

I’ll be writing about all ten areas in future blog posts. But, you can start to improve transportation safety right now with the choices you make, such as buckling up, choosing not to drink and drive and by putting attention back in the driver’s seat.

Your actions could be the difference between a full table and an empty seat at the Thanksgiving meal. At the NTSB we have the opportunity to make transportation safer and save lives, but each one of us has the opportunity to make better choices — now, that’s something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Improving Safety Across all Modes of Transportation

By Debbie Hersman
Today, I had the honor of speaking to the Aero Club of Washington, an audience of professionals from across civil aviation. It’s a great organization whose members have done much to improve aviation safety. I recognized them for the aviation community’s hard work, which has resulted in a very impressive safety record — no fatal air carrier accidents since 2009.

But, I pointed out to the Aero Club members that with some 34,000 annual fatalities across all modes of transportation, there’s a lot the NTSB does outside of aviation. Readers of this blog well know that in addition to aviation accidents, the NTSB investigates railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents.

The good news is that, while not as dramatic as the safety record of the U.S. airlines, there have been significant safety improvements in other transportation modes. I told the Aero Club about the following positive changes that have all come in the wake of terrible tragedies:

• The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority committed to implementing all of our safety recommendations following a deadly two-train collision in 2009.

• The surface transportation reauthorization legislation — known as MAP-21 — addressed another NTSB recommendation about transit safety and gives the Federal Transit Administration crucial safety oversight authority to set national transit standards.

• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees bus and truck safety, has taken an aggressive stand on bus safety, such as its recent one-day shutdown of 26 bus operations and has also implemented tough new rules prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones.

• NHTSA is addressing improved bus occupant protection and manufacturers are now voluntarily including seatbelts as standard equipment on new buses.

Yes, the NTSB covers all modes. Our goal: improved safety. But, more to the point: it’s about saving lives. You can read the full speech here.

Walking the Walk

By Debbie Hersman

The NTSB applauds the National Parent Teacher Association for its recent resolution calling on drivers to refrain from distracted driving.

Over the past decade, the NTSB has investigated accidents across all modes of transportation where distraction was the cause or a contributing factor in the crash. In December 2011, the Board recommended that states enact laws banning all drivers from all non-emergency use of personal electronic devices such as texting and talking on cellphones. The Board subsequently held an Attentive Driving – Countermeasures to Distraction Forum in March 2012.

Unfortunately, this issue suffers from the “Do as I say, not as I do” syndrome. Despite the fact that 80 percent of drivers see distraction as a danger to their safety, people continue to do it. In the AAA Foundation’s Traffic Safety Culture Index for 2011, more than two in three drivers reported talking on their cell phone while driving in the past month, and one in three drivers said that they did so regularly. Even in the case of texting, which has been considered to be one of the deadliest distractions on the road, 26 percent admitted to having typed an email or a text while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admitted to reading one. This is why the resolution from the NPTA is critical; NPTA is showing that we must lead by example; we must not “talk the talk” but rather, “walk the walk.”