As state police look at whether a blown tire may have caused a fatal Illinois bus accident downstate, the tragedy is a cautious reminder of the risks of accidents through the remainder of the summer travel season.
Dozens of passengers were injured. The Chicago Sun-Times reported some say a tire blew just before the bus crashed.
While busing companies have an obligation to provide safe passage, bus accidents are far from the only risk on the road. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers note the total number of fatal accidents nationwide spiked dramatically during the first three months of the year.
According to a CNN report, the overall number of nationwide traffic fatalities soared nearly 14 percent in the first quarter. Some 7,630 people died in traffic accidents on the nation’s roads during the first quarter of 2012, compared to 6,720 during the same period last year.
That doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year; the first quarter is typically the safest, with the number of traffic fatalities increasing each quarter, culminating with the busy holiday travel season at year’s end.
Still, those looking to vacation or travel by bus face unique challenges. These companies are in business to make money and are not all created equally. Too often serious or fatal accidents occur because a company puts profits before safety. Filing a civil lawsuit for damages will require a thorough review of all of the evidence pertaining to an accident, including truck maintenance logs and driver personnel records.
In this case, the Megabus crash near Litchfield claimed the life of a University of Missouri graduate student and injured numerous other passengers on the bus. The accident sent the packed, double-decker bus plunging off I-55, where it traveled across the median before slamming head-on into a concrete overpass pillar.
Investigators have not said whether triple-digit heat may have contributed to a blowout. Megabus has said the bus had passed a preventive maintenance check.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched a crackdown earlier this year after several high-profile fatal bus accidents in New York and elsewhere. In May, the government watchdog closed 26 bus operators, declaring them an imminent hazard to public safety.
“These aggressive enforcement actions against unsafe bus companies send a clear signal: If you put passengers’ safety at risk, we will shut you down,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at the time. “Safety is and will always be our highest priority.”
In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation now offers a SafeBus Mobile App for those looking to consider safety options when choosing a bus company.
-The app protects consumers from using illegal interstate bus companies that do not have the proper licenses to be operating or those that do not comply with proper insurance requirements.
-Consumers can review bus safety performance records. User-friendly access to the last 24 months of data is available for a number of important safety categories, including unsafe driving, vehicle maintenance and drug and alcohol violations.
-The app also alerts consumers about busing companies with unsatisfactory safety ratings.