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As legal counsel to the Middle Village Property Owners/Residents Association at the time, I was able to get signatures from a number of the organization’s members on a petition supporting seat belts on such buses. At a meeting of the association, Weiner said he supported such a proposal to protect people on such buses.
But after about a year with hardly any feedback from him, he informed the association this was an area to be handled by state and local authorities despite the interstate activities of long-distance bus carriers.
This seemed a strange response. Interstate commerce is regulated by the federal government, not state or local authorities. How could a U.S. congressman ignore safety concerns involving interstate commerce and pass the buck to state and local authorities?
As it turns out, further research shows that in 2007 legislation was introduced in Congress to require passenger seat belts in tour buses in the United States. The proposed Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2007, however, went nowhere.
The issue comes into stark focus when one considers injuries and deaths resulting from tragic bus accidents within the last several years that could have been prevented had seat belts on such buses been required by federal legislation.
In March 2007, a bus carrying the Bluffton University baseball team from Ohio crashed in Atlanta. Several team members were ejected from the bus and killed. On March 5 in Phoenix, Ariz., six people died after being ejected about 10 yards in an accident. One was thrown as far as 25 yards.
The federal government has recently banned texting by bus drivers and commercial truckers. Obviously the requirement of seat belts on interstate buses falls under federal jurisdiction. Legislation could strip states of a percentage of their highway funds if they do not require seat belts on buses.
There is no reason for the federal government to not require seat belts on buses. Had such legislation been passed years ago, catastrophic injuries and deaths may have been prevented.
Joseph A. Suraci
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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