Are charter buses safe?

If you play sports or enjoy traveling, at one time, you probably rode on a charter bus, also called a tour bus or motorcoach. They are big. They feel safe. But are they really?

Some are. Unfortunately, some are not, and here is a look at why.

Driver training

The drivers of charter buses are not always qualified or trained well. For example, they may not know how to handle weather such as heavy rain, snow or ice. Some might not be well-equipped to deal with fatigue and may not know how to prevent or minimize their own distracted driving. A number of drivers may even lack the appropriate driver’s license.

Bus maintenance

Too many charter and tour buses may be in substandard shape, with common issues including faulty brakes as well as windshield wipers and tires that need replacement. Bus companies should set up frequent inspections for their vehicles and give drivers a checklist to review before each drive or trip.

Seat belts

Seat belts are a relatively recent development on charter buses, and they do not apply to all buses. For example, there is no requirement for buses to retroactively be fitted with seat belts. Moreover, passengers can still suffer injuries or die even if they are wearing seat belts. This is especially true if they sit in the front.

Lack of communication

Then there is also the fact that there can be inadequate communication between drivers and passengers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration urges drivers to cover topics such as emergency exits and tips for safe boarding and exiting. But do drivers do this enough? Possibly not.

All that said, charter buses can be safe. In fact, The Los Angeles Daily News reports that about 20 people die from charter bus accidents every year and that 8,000 suffer injuries. In comparison, the National Safety Council estimates that about 40,200 people in 2016 died from motor vehicle accidents and about 4.6 million sustained injuries. Still, there is tremendous room for safety improvements on charter buses.