NEW YORK—In light of the recent bus crash on I-95 on March 12, in which 15 people were killed and 17 were injured, Sen. Charles Schumer called on the New York Department of Motor Vehicles to audit all licenses issued to drivers of low-cost tour buses.
While the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the accident, Schumer says several things have come to light that raise concerns about who is being allowed to drive these vehicles.
The driver of the World Wide Tour bus had several driving violations on his record, including driving without a license on two occasions, having his license suspended, speeding, and submitting false records to keep his commercial license.
“Last Saturday’s accident could very well be just the tip of the iceberg,” Schumer said. “As more and more questions are raised as to how this individual obtained and maintained a commercial license, it’s vital to the safety of New Yorkers and those who ride these buses that we know drivers have safe driving records and valid licenses.”
The demand for curbside discount tour buses has been on the rise. The Department of City Planning estimates there are at least 2,000 arrivals and departures in Manhattan’s Chinatown weekly.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are over a hundred operators of passenger busses registered in New York.
“The industry is growing. In fact, experts stated that 2010 was a boom year in the motor coach industry, with a 6 percent rise in operators, almost all from curbside,” Schumer noted.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered spot checks for buses across the state, but Schumer says that more needs to be done.
“I think now we need to go one step further. The results of these spot checks only heighten the need for an order. We need to prevent people who have no business being behind the wheel from getting behind the wheel before that bus is gone,” the senator said.
Schumer is co-sponsoring the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, but stresses that legislation takes much longer to go into effect, whereas the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can audit licenses immediately.
“We should make sure that people with these bad driving records don’t drive these buses in any way. You cannot check them after the fact—you have to check them beforehand. We want to stop this before it [another accident] happens, with a thorough audit of the drivers’ licenses,” Schumer said.
The senator added that auditing could prevent accidents. For example, the driver involved in the I-95 accident that resulted in 15 deaths and multiple injuries would not have been able to successfully falsify his records and keep his commercial license if this measure had been implemented.
“There is real worry that some of these low-cost companies are cutting corners on safety, and a thorough review of all the drivers of firms operating in this market can answer the questions that must be answered,” Schumer said. “I think that you can still have cheap, affordable services with safe drivers. I think it’s been a lack of both care by some of the bus companies and a lack of scrutiny by the DMV, and we’re hopeful that will change.”