WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today hailed Congressional passage of major provisions of his legislation that would require safety belts, stronger seating systems, and enhanced commercial driver training to improve tour bus safety. Following a bus crash involving members of the Bluffton University baseball team, Brown worked alongside Ohio families—including John and Joy Betts, whose son David died in the Bluffton accident—to introduce bipartisan legislation addressing tour bus safety. Seven Ohioans died in the Bluffton University crash, including five members of the baseball team.
Brown fought to include the bipartisan Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011as part of the highway bill reauthorization that was approved by both houses of Congress today. The bill will now be signed into law by the President. Brown originally introduced the legislation alongside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in 2007; again in 2009; and finally in 2011.
“Stronger tour bus safety standards are long overdue. I hope that knowing future passengers in tour buses will be better protected on the road will help bring some measure of closure and comfort to the friends, families, and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the Bluffton crash,” Brown said. “By equipping buses with common-sense safety measures—seatbelts, stronger roofs, and safer windows—we can help prevent deaths and minimize injuries. Simply put, this bill will help save lives.”
“The Betts family is very appreciative of Senator Brown’s sponsorship and hard work he and his staff have put into this long overdue and much-needed motorcoach safety legislation,” said John Betts. “This bill has been an integral part of our lives for the past five years since our son David died March 2nd, 2007 in Atlanta in a motorcoach crash. We are extremely happy these common-sense safety features will save lives and family sorrow.
“This legislation also fulfills the promise we made to our son David and all the Bluffton University baseball team the day of the motorcoach crash: that something good will come of this tragedy as David was so good,” Mr. Betts continued. “Promise fulfilled—thanks to Senator Brown.”
“As the industry leader in North America, we are delighted to see the motorcoach safety provisions of the surface transportation reauthorization bill adopted,” said Dave Leach, president and CEO, Greyhound Lines, Inc. “We commend Senator Brown for his sponsorship, along with Senator Hutchison, that led to the enactment of this important legislation, which serves as the cornerstone for ensuring all passengers’ safety when traveling on our nation’s intercity bus lines.”
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act is based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, some of which were first proposed in 1968. The bill would require:
- Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
- Improved commercial driver training. Currently, no training is required by Federal regulation.
- Anti-ejection glazing windows to prevent passengers from being easily thrown outside the motorcoach.
- Strong, crush-resistant roofs that can withstand rollovers.
- Improved protection against fires by reducing flammability of the motorcoach interior, and better training for operators in the case of fire.
- A National Commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry to ensure that only medically qualified examiners conduct physical examinations of drivers and a medical certificate process to ensure that all certificates are valid and no unqualified operator is allowed to drive.
- Strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety inspections, including roadside inspections, safety audits, and state and motor carrier programs for identifying vehicle defects.
- Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) with real-time capabilities to track precise vehicle location that cannot be tampered with by the driver.