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| Shapiro, Appleton, Washburn & Sharp

Holiday season means travel season. During this time of year, whether it’s to save a few bucks, to travel “green” or simply to not have the responsibility of driving, many people turn to passenger buses as the chosen means of transportation when going to visit friends and family. And, depending on what region of the country you live in, there might be dozens of bus companies available to you. In addition to the conventional Greyhound buses that operate out of terminals across the nation, there are countless discount bus companies. But, buyer beware: not all bus companies are equally safe. And there is a big difference between the conventional bus lines—like Greyhound—and all those other discount lines.

One type of discount bus line is the so-called “curbside buses”, getting their name from the fact that they pick their passengers up not at a terminal, but on the side of the road. This might seem attractive both for savings and for the convenience of not having to get to a terminal. But, according to a National Transportation Safety Administration Report released in October of this year, these so-called “curbside” buses performed worse than conventional buses in nearly every safety measure; they had:

  • more accidents (24 per 100 buses versus 19);
  • higher injury and fatal accident rates (13 per 100 buses versus 10);
  • higher driver fitness violations 14 per 100 buses versus 5); and
  • higher driver fatigue violations (17 per 100 buses versus 11)

According to an NTSB press release, part of the problem here is lack of adequate oversight by safety agencies. Because of the way curbside buses operate—primarily that they do not pass through bus terminals—they tend to fall under the radar of safety regulation enforcement. This means that the fatal accident rate for curbside carriers between January 2005 and March 2011 was 7 times that of conventional bus operations.

These numbers reveal that the safety performance of different bus carries can vary greatly. It matters which company you choose—and not just because of price. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration warns consumers to look into the safety records of the bus companies before buying a ticket and provides an online tool to do just that.

Even if you aren’t getting behind the wheel of a car this holiday season, make sure you do what you can to keep your holiday travel safe.

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