America puts some strict safety regulations on the manufacturers of cars and trucks in order to protect consumers -- so why aren't American buses and trains equipped with the sort of basic protections that are considered standard in other modes of transportation?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been asking the same question for a while now. However, their list of suggested safety improvements for buses and trains has generally fallen on deaf ears where Greyhound, Amtrak and most other transportation carriers are concerned.
Admittedly, major accidents involving buses and trains are fairly rare -- but they do happen. According to NTSB, 44 people died in bus crashes in 2017 alone. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 21 people were killed on trains in 2017 and 2018. But those relatively low numbers only represent fatalities -- they don't represent the thousands of people who have suffered serious injuries in recent years in bus or train accidents.
In many cases, investigators say that simply having a seat belt would prevent death or serious injury. While seat belts have long been mandatory in passenger cars and trucks, neither trains nor buses are usually equipped with those simple life-saving devices. Even when seat belts are present -- like on some Greyhound buses -- passengers aren't required to wear them.
The NTSB also claims that design problems with the way that seats in buses and trains are compartmentalized may be adding to the danger that commuters face. In addition, there's little protection from falling baggage in an accident because most baggage racks aren't secure.
Bus exits are also a problem. In an emergency, the windows used to evacuate passengers are often difficult to operate. They require someone to hold them open, rather than simply popping off for an easy exit -- which can end up trapping passengers inside after an accident, far away from emergency aid.
In February, the NTSB once again gave transportation companies its list of the changes that need to be made to improve passenger safety. It remains to be seen whether or not any of the companies involved will listen.
If you were injured or your loved one was killed in a bus accident or train accident, you should learn more about your right to recovery.