Small businesses and individuals are increasingly relying on discount buses and coach buses for transportation. With rising fuel prices, these buses are used to conduct tours and are used to shuttle groups of athletes, students, and even employees from place to place. In Florida, coach buses are extremely common, used by tourism businesses and tour operators. Unfortunately, the prevalent use of these buses in Florida can mean more Florida bus accidents.
It is completely legal in Florida for coach buses to not have seat belts available. Part of the problem is a 2002 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The study found that seat belts on such vehicles do not seem to have any benefit in reducing injuries in frontal collisions. The study further concluded that for young passengers lap seat belts on coach buses and school buses can increase the risk of serious abdominal and neck injuries.
The NHTSA study further found that the type of belts used in cars – known as lap-shoulder belts – when used correctly in buses can slightly lower the risk of neck injuries and head injuries. However, the study concluded that spacing cushioned seats close together worked as well as seatbelts in protecting passengers. However, the same study also concluded that in the event of a bus rollover, seat belt use could reduce the risk of fatality by 77%.
The NHTSA study and others like it point to a major problem with seat belts on buses: there is a lot of contradictory information available about the effectiveness of seatbelts in preventing bus accident injuries. While the benefits of seat belts in passenger cars have been well established and widely accepted, the same is not true when it comes to seat belt use in buses.
Some experts claim that seat belts would pose an additional distraction for school bus drivers because drivers would need to enforce seat belt use among students rather than keeping eyes on the road. As well, they note that seat belt use would mean fewer seats per bus and therefore more buses on the road, which might also increase the risk of Florida bus accidents. Many experts also note that the costs of seat belt implementation would outweigh the benefits, especially since bus accidents are rare and buses are considered far safer than passenger vehicles. According to the American Bus Association, the fatality rate for cars in 2007 was 1.04 per 100 million miles, compared with 0.5 per 100 million miles for coach buses.
Despite these assurances, however, there have been a number of high-profile bus crashes in the past decade, causing new laws to be passed. Federal laws, for example, require that school buses of less than 10 000 pounds make seat belts available, since these buses are more likely to result in students being ejected from their seats in an accident. As well, Florida and five other states require school buses to have some form of restraint. Currently, however, there are no similar rules for coach buses. A bill known as the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act would change that by mandating ejection-proof windows, seat belts, and rollover-proof roofs. Another rule has been proposed which would make it mandatory for all new coach buses to have seat belts.
If you have been injured in a Florida bus accident, contact the Flaxman Law Group to arrange a free consultation to go over your rights and options. Our legal team, located in Miami, Homestead, and Hollywood, is poised to serve the entire South Florida community and has thousands of cases worth of trial and negotiating experience to serve you.