USA TODAY US Edition
‘More needs to be done’
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.