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Monday, June 15, 2009

National Transportation Agency Calls for Bus Company Contingency Plans

With Better Planning, Deadly 2008 Utah Crash Might Have Been Avoided

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for charter bus companies to devise and implement improved contingency plans to cope with bus crashes in remote areas.

The American Bus Association and the United Motorcoach Association were recently informed of NTSB's recommendations, which allude to detailed contingency plans and information about traveling through isolated areas where there is no cell phone coverage.

The NTSB says crashes like the one in January 2008 near Mexican Hat, Utah revealed several ways safety could be improved. In the accident, 9 people died and 43 others were injured as they made their way home to Phoenix after a weekend ski trip in Telluride, Colo.

According to the NTSB, the 71-year-old driver's fatigue, which impaired his reaction time, most likely caused the crash. Further taxing the already-overtired operator was heavy snow conditions, which closed a mountain pass and caused the bus to take a longer route than normal.

The recommendations blamed the charter company, Arrow Stage Lines, for not considering supplying overnight accommodations or providing relief drivers at locations along the 550-mile route between Telluride and Phoenix.

"For contingency plans to be effective, they must be considered before the start of the trip, documented and coordinated with the charter group," the NTSB said.

At press time, the Omaha, Nebraska-based Arrow Stage Lines had not responded to e-mails or phone messages from The Associated Press.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not escape the NTSB's criticism, as they were rebuked for neglecting to implement 10-year-old motorcoach safety recommendations. Amongst those recommendations were stronger bus roofs and easy-to-open, shatterproof windows. The recommendations also mandated that steps be taken - including potentially requiring seat belt use - to prevent passengers from being ejected in rollover crashes.

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