Despite Megabus crash, number of vehicle accidents declining

Friday, August 3, 2012 | 8:02 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Megabus had inspected the bus involved in a fatal accident on Interstate 55 on Thursday within the last week.

Amanda Byers, Megabus spokesperson, said in a news release the company's motor coaches undergo maintenance checks approximately every 10 days.

Megabus uses technology to try to prevent accidents, like tire monitoring transmitted through GPS that attempt to pick up pressure changes or predict blowouts, according to the release.

Despite precautions, Lt. Louis Kink of the Illinois State Police said the cause of the accident was most likely a blown tire. A definitive close to the investigation is about two weeks out.

Large motor carrier companies, like Megabus, must register with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The administration places regulations on both the vehicles and drivers employed by the company.

Vehicles must undergo maintenance checks on a regular basis. According to the administration, over the past six years, motor coach inspections have more than doubled, from 12,991 in 2005 to 28,982 in 2011. Increased checks are meant to remove unsafe vehicles or drivers from commission.

A new rule, enacted in May, expands the administration’s authority to keep unsafe motor carriers from illegally continuing their operations through affiliate companies.

Drivers must have a current Commercial Drivers License from their home state with a special additional endorsement for driving a passenger vehicle. They must also have a medical certification and pass periodic tests for drugs and alcohol.

The administration places limits on the amount of time drivers can work — after driving for eight consecutive hours, drivers are required to wait at least ten hours before driving again.

Federal, state and local law enforcement personnel across the United States enforce these regulations. Violations can lead to written warnings, fines and other penalties, according to the administration's website.

The regulations appear to be effective, as the number of accidents involving large vehicles have decreased nationally. From 2007 to 2009, fatal crashes involving a bus decreased from 280 to 221, according to data from the administration.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported a decrease from 148 to 93 fatal commercial vehicle accidents over the same time period. Overall, total vehicular crashes have decreased about 40 percent in Missouri from 2005 to 2011, said Captain Tim Hull, director of the public information and education division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Hull said multiple factors impact the number of accidents that occur. Higher rates of speed limit enforcement and DUI/DWI checkpoints, safety and education programs, faster emergency response times and the engineering of safer cars all contribute.

Supervising editor is Hannah Cushman

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