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Carriers' past bus accidents would be revealed in grading system

Last month, we posted about 26 discount bus carriers shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over concerns about their safety performance. Congress has since taken some steps to make their track records more transparent. Potential riders boarding in Chicago will now be able to make more of an informed choice about which bus line they want to take to their destination.

Sponsored by Senator Charles Schumer, the bill would rate bus companies on the familiar report card grade scale. These grades would be available to the public, providing passengers with a shorthand evaluation of a company's past safety issues. The legislation has received the approval of both houses of Congress and needs only President Obama's signature to become law.

The bill was first created in 2011 when federal legislators responded to deadly bus accidents among some of the discount carriers. In particular, a total of 19 people tragically lost their lives in two separate crashes in Sen. Schumer's home state of New York in 2010 and 2011. In one of those accidents, the bus driver was not paying enough attention to the road to realize that the bus would not safely pass under an upcoming bridge. Four people died when the top of the bus slammed into the bridge.

Under the terms of the bill, the Department of Transportation would be responsible for evaluating the bus companies' safety performance and assigning them a grade based upon it. While the grading system gives companies an additional incentive to provide an accident-free ride to their passengers, established law also provides motivation. As common carriers, bus companies owe a high degree of responsibility to deliver riders safely to their destinations. When accidents do happen, injured passengers may be able to receive compensation.

Source: Associated Press, "Schumer: Bill requires public bus-safety grades," July 1, 2012.

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