Senators call for bus safety legislation

A bus operated by a company called Super Luxury Tours crashed this week on the Turnpike in Lautenberg's home state of New Jersey, resulting in the deaths of one passenger and the bus driver. Earlier this month, a bus carrying senior citizens on the way back from New York City from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut crashed in the Bronx, killing 15 people and injuring 17 more. 

That bus was operated by the company World Wide Tours. 

Lautenberg said the DoT has lagged on implementing a 2009 Motorcoach Safety Action plan it proposed that might have helped avoid the accidents. That plan called for a ban on texting while driving bus and limiting drivers' overall cell phone use. It also called for electronic devices to be installed on buses to monitor driver fatigue.

"We owe it to these passengers to make sure only the safest motorcoach companies and drivers have authority to be in business, and that they are operating the safest motorcoaches," Lautenberg said in his letter to LaHood.

"While I appreciate your efforts to make our highways safer, I urge you to aggressively complete the rulemakings and evaluations in the Motorcoach Safety Action Plan and request that you continue to update me and my staff on your progress," he continued.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) is also calling for action on bus safety. Hutchison, the ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, called for requiring seatbelts on buses in an op-ed written for The Hill.

"Beginning on Jan. 1, 1968, a revolutionary new safety device designed to protect passengers in high-speed collisions was required in every automobile sold in America," Hutchison wrote. "That device was a seatbelt. But the groundbreaking law requiring seatbelts for U.S. passenger vehicles had one exception: buses.

"Today, millions of Americans travel on buses every year because it often represents the most affordable option to visit friends and families across the country," she continued. "Unless the bus owner voluntarily provides seatbelts and stronger windows and roofs, which most do not, bus passengers have no choice but to travel without these basic safety protections most people take for granted."