WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Transportation has dragged its feet and delayed implementing safety measures that became law in 2012, Sen. Sherrod Brown said during a conference call Wednesday morning.
Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, introduced legislation in 2011 to strengthen safety standards for buses. The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act became law in 2012 and requires safety belts and stronger seating systems, anti-ejection glazing windows to prevent passengers from being easily thrown outside motorcoaches and strong, crush-resistant roofs that withstand rollovers.
However, Brown said the Department of Transportation has delayed implementing the measures that could save lives.
“The Department of Transportation needs to stop dragging its feet and stop putting students and other passengers at risk – it’s their job to make sure Ohioans are safe on the road,” Brown said. “Every day Americans take more than 1.5 million motorcoach trips, and parents sending their children on field trips or on the road to away games shouldn’t have to worry the bus they’re riding isn’t safe.”
Brown was joined on the conference call by John Betts, whose son David died in a 2007 bus crash involving members of the Bluffton University baseball team.
“On March 2, 2007, after identifying my son David Betts at Atlanta’s Fulton County Morgue, I returned to Grady Hospital where many of the players were recovering and being checked out,” Betts said. “I promised the players that something good would come out of this horrific motorcoach crash that killed seven and permanently injured many more because David was so good. After five years of multiple trips to Washington, D.C., and many letters written to Congress, something good did happen; the Surface Transportation Bill sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown and Kay Bailey Hutchison was passed, which required seat belts, roof strengthening, safety glass and many other occupant safety features to be put on all new motorcoaches. Let’s stop messing around with the vulnerable public lives and complete my promise to the Bluffton baseball players and my son.”
Although the safety requirements became law in 2012, Brown said, they haven’t been fully implemented. Former President Barack Obama’s administration didn’t move fast enough, Brown said, and now the administration of President Donald Trump is pushing back and promoting deregulation.
“You just have this whole deregulatory environment in the government now,” Brown said. “They’ve got to be more serious about it.”
Betts and his wife, Joy Betts, are disappointed by the lack of progress made on implementing the law they pushed for in the wake of their son’s death.
“It feels like the Department of Transportation has performed a smoke and mirrors routine,” Betts said. “This lack of full implementation of the bill has left us feeling empty and disappointed.”
While Brown’s legislation was enacted in 2012, the push to improve safety on buses has been around for more than 50 years. There have been efforts since 1969 to get seat belts on motorcoaches, Betts said.
“We’re the parents of one death too many because of delay tactics,” he said. “That delay tactic had an impact on our lives. We would like to see this implemented so there is less impact on other people’s lives.”
Earlier this month a bus traveling from Flushing, New York, to Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky, crashed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Five people died in the crash, including a 9-year-old girl who attended Dayton Public Schools and a 2017 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Dentistry.
Brown has sent letters to the Department of Transportation in recent months pushing it to speed up the implementation of safety measures. Following the crash in Pennsylvania, he said he’ll continue to monitor the situation and apply pressure on the department.
“There’s no question if this is fully implemented lives will be saved,” Brown said.
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