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Lax Inspections Call Bus Safety into Question

Despite 40 deaths from deadly bus crashes in Illinois, Texas and Mississippi in recent years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has yet to heighten its oversight of commercial vehicle safety, as recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

A 2004 crash that killed 15 people highlights the failings of the inspection system in Illinois. According to the NTSB, the bus passed a state-approved inspection in a Chicago shop two months before the accident. However, inspectors missed serious defects in the bus that would have normally kept it off the road. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the same garage was later suspended for a month due to a poor inspection of a school bus during the same time period.

While annual inspection of commercial vehicles is required under federal law, more than half of states have no such requirement. Instead, safety inspections are conducted by state agencies, independent mechanics or even vehicle owners and operators themselves. An impromptu roadside inspection, completed within the previous year, also meets the federal requirement for many states. Legislative efforts to improve inspections at the state level, approved in the Senate in March, have stalled in the House.

Failure to provide additional scrutiny, long deemed unnecessary by the FMCSA, also irks bus safety advocates. "If you can't afford to take a plane and have to take a bus, you are going to be subject to second-class safety standards, both in terms of equipment and oversight by the federal government," said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in a recent Boston Globe article.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a bus or other commercial vehicle, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case and review your options.

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