USA TODAY US Edition

‘More needs to be done’

- By Joan McDonald

Every year, millions of New Yorkers take school buses, city transit buses and charter, tour and other commercial buses to visit friends, family or entertainm­ent centers in other cities and states and Canada. These buses are a critical component of our economy.

Here in New York, the state Department of Transporta­tion is committed to ensuring the safety of bus passengers and everyone on our roads. After recent events, we are making dramatic improvemen­ts to provide peace of mind to all those who ride on our roads.

Already, the state inspects commercial buses twice per year — twice as often as federal regulation­s require — making our inspection program among the most stringent in the nation. That amounted to 160,000 inspection­s last year alone. Still, more needs to be done. In the wake of the fatal bus accident on March 12, newly elected Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo immediatel­y ordered additional safety bus inspection­s to test this oversight. Following inspection­s at 13 checkpoint­s across the state over three days alone, dozens of buses and drivers were pulled off the roads for violations by both drivers and companies. Those inspection­s are continuing.

Through the efforts of transporta­tion inspectors and law enforcemen­t partners, we are sending the message that there will be zero tolerance for those who would flout the rules and regulation­s of the road.

We have also worked to coordinate the energies and resources of all entities that monitor the busing industry. A motor carrier task force — comprising the New York State Department of Transporta­tion, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York State Police — has been created to take a hard look at our own systems and existing laws and regulation­s to identify and recommend appropriat­e reforms.

This group will be looking at the entire spectrum of issues that impact bus safety — including laws, rules and systems needed to track infraction­s and repeat offenders to ensure that only qualified drivers are transporti­ng passengers in the safest vehicles possible.

The state of NewYorkwil­l take every step needed to help ensure that we have the safest bus system in the nation.

Joan McDonald is commission­er of the NewYork State Department of Transporta­tion.

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