The recent fatal bus accident in California that killed ten people is shedding light on long ignored safety recommendations, that are not all that complicated or expensive. Both vehicles in this collision were consumed by fire, but not before forty passengers were able to escape from a single bus window that a passenger had kicked out. It turns out that this problem is not new, and that previous fatal bus accidents have spurred recommendations which have not been followed.
After a 1999 bus rollover accident where several people reported that they were unable to use emergency exit doors, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency charged with regulating motor coaches, recommended new standards that would require better emergency exit windows on these buses. This recommendation came in part, from a finding that passengers would have had to exert 85 pounds of pressure in order to escape through the safety exits. Fifteen years later, nothing has happened.
Everyone is pointing fingers. Former NTSB officials blame under-funding, motor coach industry resistance, and even politics, explaining that it is easy to ignore attention to an industry that transports the elderly, students, and lower income Americans. The motor coach industry blames the government, stating that it can only build these safety features into the buses if required by law. NTSB has been working on new standards, for about seven years.
This delay pales in comparison to other NTSB recommendations. Following another fatal motor coach accident, the NTSB recommended standards requiring seat belts on these buses, not exactly a cutting edge technology. Forty five years later, those recommendations were adopted.
These rules establish the minimum standard. Nothing prevents a bus carrier or manufacturer to implement enhanced safety standards on its buses.