Texas legislators and safety experts have asked for tougher enforcement of motor carrier regulations after an illegal bus crashed in North Texas, killing seventeen Vietnamese Catholics from Houston. The bus, which was owned and operated by Angel de la Torre, was illegal because the operator was barred twice from traveling outside of Texas under two different company names. The owner lost his permit, reapplied, and was allowed to continue to operate. Federal investigators are currently sifting through the wreckage, trying to find what went wrong so a tragedy like this will never happen again. Lawmakers in Austin and Washington echoed this sentiment after two more crashes this weekend in Mississippi and Nevada put the issue of bus safety on every politician’s agenda. A similar situation also occurred when a bus, sent to pick up elderly evacuees trying to escape Hurricane Rita, erupted into fire, killing twenty-three passengers. Safety officials state, however, that none of the seventeen recommendations, including four key bus safety regulations, made by the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) were acted on by the federal government.
Keith Holloway, spokesman for the NTSB, confirmed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not responded in regards to drafting new federal regulations to implement the recommended changes. A spokesman for the agency has said no changes in federal regulations will be made until it is certain it would be effective in improving safety. Many are wondering if anything can actually be done since in the most recent case, the bus operator was bent on breaking the law; new regulations would not have really had an effect if the owner did not follow them.
Two U.S. Senators from Texas and Ohio are calling for the passage of their legislation, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act; a hearing before the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is scheduled for next month. This bill was first introduced after a bus crash in Georgia killed several athletes from an Ohio college. It requires bus owners to provide fire extinguishers, safety belts and other safety enhancements. This call for reform is nothing new for Texans. In the past six years, fifty-two people have died in passenger bus accidents and the records show very little has been done to weed out troubled bus carriers. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/buscrash/5937817.html
These crashes are killing dozens of innocent people; people who depend upon these bus carriers to be safe, and, indeed, trust that they are safe and obeying relevant traffic safety regulations. Unfortunately, appropriate government agencies either are unable, because of funding, or incapable, because of incompetence, of protecting citizens from these catastrophes. These types of tragedies can be prevented, but this is of little consolation to the familes involved.