U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today joined an Ohio family, a national safety advocate, and Cleveland bus drivers to hail a new law--enacted on Friday--which will require safety belts, stronger seating systems, and enhanced commercial driver training to improve tour bus safety. Following a 2007 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.
"Stronger tour bus safety standards are long overdue. These measures will protect both passengers and other motorists on the road," 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 enactment of this law wouldn't have happened without the tireless advocacy of John and Joy Betts, who turned their grief into action after their son, David, passed away in the Bluffton accident," Brown continued. "The tragedy rocked a small town in Ohio, but also brought national attention to long-overdue safety improvements for America's tour buses."
Seven individuals died in the Bluffton University crash, including five members of the school's baseball team. At the Greyhound station in Cleveland, John Betts discussed his nearly five-year fight alongside Sen. Brown to get this important bill cleared through Congress and signed into law, as did Jackie Gillan, president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Jimmie McCoy, vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Region 3, outlined new provisions to strengthen driver safety and training.
"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."
Brown fought to include the bipartisan Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011 as part of the highway bill reauthorization that was signed into law on Friday. Brown originally introduced the legislation alongside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in 2007; again in 2009; and finally in 2011. In July 2011, Brown was joined by Greyhound CEO, David Leach, to announce his company's support for the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011.
The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act is based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, some of which were first proposed in 1968. The law requires:
Safety belts and stronger seating systems to ensure occupants stay in their seats in a crash.
Improved commercial driver training.
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.