Two horrific bus crashes occurred over the weekend, one in California and the other in Boston. The bus crash in California killed at least eight, injuring many more. The bus was returning to Mexico from California where passengers had been traveling to ski.
Apparently, the bus came from Tijuana, Mexico. On the way home, due to what appears to be brake failure, it collided with a truck and a sedan.
The other crash involved high school students traveling from Philadelphia to Harvard University. The bus crashed into a low bridge. One girl called her mother from the scene, hysterical and scared. She told her the roof caved in and that she hurt her arm. As a mom, the thought of that call chills my blood.
So is bus travel safe anymore?
Last year, the country cracked down on dangerous tour buses and even closed some companies. Even so, as someone who used to travel by bus frequently, I know exactly why buses are less expensive than trains and planes. Not only are they less comfortable, in many cases, they are also subject to more frequent breakdowns and maintenance issues.
Most of the time, these are minor. I remember one time I was on a bus going from New York City to Boston and I ended up standing on the side of the road for two hours, waiting for a backup bus. It was annoying at the time, but in the scheme of things, especially given these two crashes, it was nothing.
It could have been so much worse.
The road in Boston where the bus crashed is notorious for those low bridges. In that case, the driver may be cited for not heeding the (obvious, bright) signs warning of the bridge clearance. But the other, far more tragic bus crash in California sounds like mechanical error.
Pretty terrifying when you think about it. Buses are so big, they feel like trains, but the fact is they are giant cars and are subject to all the dangers that cars have -- maintenance issues, other drivers, etc. Unlike trains or planes, there are more variables in bus travel that can make it more dangerous.
Still, statistically speaking, they are probably OK to use once in a while. But every time one of these crashes happens, it gives me pause. My heart goes out to those killed in the crash and those first responders who had to see such awful things.
It's a massive tragedy all around.
Do you feel safe traveling by bus?
Image via Moyan_Brenn/Flickr