Bus crashes happen more often in our part of the country than we realize. In our last post, for example, we listed six bus accidents that happened in the past two months, all involving people getting seriously hurt and sometimes killed in the bus crash.
It’s important that everyone in Indiana and Illinois understand that today, there are real dangers of a bus accident for anyone riding the bus as a passenger as well as the commercial bus driver, as well as those in the other vehicles involved in the bus accident.
New Our Roads, Our Safety Campaign
For the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, educating the public about the danger of being hurt in a bus crash dovetails with increasing awareness of the risks of other commercial motor vehicle accidents (primarily those involving semi-trucks). So, working in conjunction with the American Bus Association and the American Trucking Association, FMCSA has announced a new national campaign.
This public service awareness drive targets one aspect of bus safety: education of those driving their vehicles alongside the commercial vehicle. FMCSA calls it the “Our Roads, Our Safety” campaign.
The goal here is to help not only drivers of sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and other passenger vehicles, but also bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians to stay safe as they navigate roadways alongside the bigger and heavier buses and semi-trucks.
- Stay out of the “No Zones” or blind spots at the front, back and sides of the vehicle
- Make sure they can see the driver in the mirror before safely passing
- Don’t cut in close while merging in front of a CMV
- Stay back a safe distance to avoid being in the blind spot
- Anticipate wide turns and consider that larger vehicles may require extra turning room
- Stay focused on the road and avoid distractions
- Be patient driving around large trucks and buses.
Note: In the State of Indiana, “commercial buses” are referred to as “for-hire” buses. See licensing regulations for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
School Buses and Motorcoaches
There are two primary types of large buses operating on our roadways today: the school bus (usually in that traditional yellow color) and the motorcoach. It is true that a commercial bus is defined as any vehicle that is “designed primarily to transport nine or more persons, including the driver.” (See FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts – 2015 Report). And there are many of these smaller minibuses on the roads, carrying church groups to their destinations or transporting nursing care residents on field trips to the local mall or movie theatre, etc.
However, most commercial bus traffic involves the school bus and the motorcoach. Motorcoaches are larger passenger buses designed for comfort and travel.
Greyhound Bus Company operates four different kinds of motorcoach buses, for instance. You can take a virtual tour of one of their Motorcoaches online here.
Another example of motorcoach buses that are less luxurious than those offered by Greyhound are those buses used by the City of Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority operates the second largest public transportation system in the country. Catch a bus on the CTA bus schedule and you’re riding on a motorcoach bus.
School buses are commercial buses built for the specific purpose of transporting children and teenagers to and from school. School buses in Indiana and Illinois can come in four different models. One is a minibus (designed for a maximum 16 passenger capacity). The other three school bus models are large commercial motor vehicles, designed to carry between 30 and 90 passengers at full capacity.
School Buses are More Dangerous Than Motorcoaches
So, should you feel safer with your kids on a school bus than if they were to travel on a more luxurious motorcoach? No.
In a recent news release from the American Bus Association released last month, the President of the American Bus Association, Peter Pantuso, explains school buses are more dangerous and have more bus crash deaths:
In terms of total crash incidents, the truth is that school buses have more fatal collisions (98 vs. 32 in 2015) and more people die in those events (107 vs. 40 in 2015) than motorcoaches ….
Staying Safe on the Roads With a Commercial Bus: Avoiding a Bus Crash
So, how can we avoid collisions and fatal accidents with these large commercial motor vehicles like motorcoaches and school buses?
According to the new FMCSA campaign, drivers who share the roads with these machines need to know the following :
Buses Take Longer to Stop than Smaller Vehicles
Drivers need to know that bus drivers need a lot more time to bring the bus to a full stop. It’s going to take a lot more length of the road to bring that bus to a stop, too.
The time and distance needed to stop a school bus or commercial motorcoach bus is even greater when the vehicle is fully loaded with passengers. The more weight carried by the bus, the longer it will take to stop the bus.
Another factor here: the weather. If it is raining, snowing, or roads have iced over in winter weather, then the bus driver will need a great deal of roadway and time to get that bus to come to a full stop.
For those sharing the roads with buses, especially driving at high speeds or in bad weather, it’s important to know that the bus will not be able to halt or stop as fast as an SUV or minivan.
The bus will need lots of space and a lot more time to come to a stop. Be ready for this. Don’t pull in front of that bus as you are coming to a red light or an intersection. Give the bus lots of leeway.
Buses Need Lots of Space at Intersections Because They Make Wide Turns
School buses and motorcoaches are long and heavy motor vehicles, sometimes moving in excess of 60-70 mph on our highways and toll roads. If a bus needs to take an off-ramp, or to pull into a truck stop or rest area, then it will need more room to navigate that transition than other kinds of vehicles.
It will need lots of room because it will have to make a wide turn. For drivers on the road with the bus, this is vital information because the bus must first move to the left, and sometimes into a neighboring lane, in order to make that right turn (and vice versa, moving to the right for a left turn).
Drivers need to be aware of the bus turning area when driving near any type of commercial bus. Drivers also need to be vigilant to getting too close to a bus as it is turning, because crashes can happen as the smaller vehicle is hit in the “squeeze.”
Buses have Blind Spots and Bus Drivers Cannot See All the Vehicles on the Road
Those who drive commercial buses do not have the same ability to see around their vehicle as do drivers of smaller vehicles like sedans and SUVs. Bus drivers have to deal with “blind spots” as part of their job.
Buses have several “blind spots” for the bus driver. Because of the height and length of the bus, there is limited visibility in the front and back as well as along both sides of the bus. In industry terminology, these are the bus’s “No Zones.”
Driving alongside any bus means drivers need to understand about the bus driver’s blind spots. Drive defensively because the bus driver simply may not see you. This is especially important when you want to pass a bus in high-speed traffic on the highway.
Buses are a part of our daily lives. We drive alongside them. Many of us take buses for our daily transportation. Parents entrust their children to the school bus each morning here in Indiana and Illinois. And that’s fine. Buses help us lead better lives. However, it’s important that we all understand the risk and danger of a serious bus crash for anyone riding a commercial bus. Bus crashes hurt people here. Let’s all be careful out there!