Each year millions of Americans ride motorcoaches as an inexpensive alternative to air or rail travel.
Dozens of discount lines now run between major cities across the country.
Tens of thousands of groups book travel where motorcoaches are used, including student field trips.
Motorcoaches are safe but not entirely so.
This past week a motorcoach struck a sign pole in California killing a number of passengers and critically injuring others.
In July, a motorcoach in Taiwan burst into flames with the exit door pinned shut against a guard rail, killing 26.
April 10, 2014, Orland, CA, Crash and Fire
A tractor-trailer crossed the median and struck a coach filled with students head-on.
The vehicles slid onto the shoulder coming to rest in a v-configuration.
The truck’s fuel tank ruptured in the crash and diesel fuel was sprayed into the bus interior causing an instantaneous fuel-fed fire.
A number of the fatalities were from asphyxiation and three passengers never escaped.
Those that did reported thick black smoke inside the motorcoach.
The coach was equipped with 3-point seatbelts but only one passenger out of 45 was wearing one.
Motor Coach Safety Points
-Take responsibility for your own safety, find the window exits and roof hatches.
-If there are seatbelts, use them.
-Locate the fire extinguisher.
-Assume the front door will not be operable in an emergency.
-Sit next to a window exit or a roof hatch emergency exit.
-Know that most window exits are hinged at the top and do not stay open. Â You will need to push and hold the window open to get out, a challenge if the coach is on its side.
-If the coach is upright and you exit from the window, it is a seven foot drop to the ground.
-If you used the roof hatch, it’s a twelve foot drop.
-Move quickly, leave luggage behind and get away from the vehicle once outside.
A Bus is Not a Coach
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, “Medium-size buses (with GVWRs between 10,001 and 26,000 pounds) are required to meet very few crashworthiness standards when compared with new motorcoaches and school buses.”
If you are riding one of these do not expect it to fare nearly as well as a motorcoach which must pass higher standards.
Leasing a Coach or Bus?
Be an informed consumer.
Using online tools you can check the company and the driver for safety performance:
-Do all drivers have a valid commercial drivers license with a passenger endorsement?
-Do all drivers have a valid medical examiners certificate?
-Ask about driving experience and safety history for each driver.
-Ask if the company has a policy prohibiting drivers from cell phone use or texting (and that it is enforced.)
-Ensure that the company has a drug and alcohol testing program and policy.
-Report unsafe driver actions and conduct.
Be proactive about your safety.
Check out their safety record when leasing or buying a ticket.
Once on the ride, follow the tips above.
Safe travels and Pass It On.