Buses Could Get Letter Grades for Safety Just Like New York Restaurants

Most New Yorkers are already familiar with the restaurant grading system instituted by the New York City Department of Health - restaurants receive an "A," "B" or "C" grade for their food safety and sanitary-inspection results, and the grade is prominently displayed outside the restaurant for all to see.

State Senator Chuck Schumer has suggested that this simple letter grade system should also be applied to bus companies after a number of fatal bush crashes exposed lacking safety standards among several commercial bus companies.

Schumer points out that bus company safety information is already in the public record and posted on the Internet by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (a division of the Department of Transportation). But not everyone who buys a bus ticket is aware of this, and Schumer believes many would shop more carefully if they knew the safety records of some bus carriers.

For instance, World Wide Travel owned a tour bus that crashed while returning to New York City from an out-of-state casino, killing 15 people and injuring 17 others. At the time the bus accident occurred, World Wide Travel had been cited five times for driver fatigue that contributed to a crash, according to the New York Daily News.

Although bus travel is statistically very safe, it does involve a number of dangers of which many people are unaware. Many buses do not have reinforced roofs, allowing them to crush passengers in the event of a rollover. Some do not have strong enough windows, which means passengers may be ejected during a crash. And still others are not equipped with safety belts.

Schumer's proposed letter grade system would be displayed at bus ticket counters and also on websites that sell bus tickets. The senator did not introduce legislation to require letter grades for buses, but rather called upon U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to implement such a system. Schumer is, however, a co-sponsor of a bill in the New York Senate called the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, which would require a variety of enhanced safety equipment on buses to reduce the risk of injury or death in dangerous bus crashes.