LIMA—Following a fatal bus crash involving Seton Hill University student athletes, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown is urging a quicker implementation of the tour bus safety bill he put forth after seven died in the 2007 Bluffton University bus accident.
On the third try, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act became law last July. Brown, an Ohio Democrat, wants to see the safety measures put in place sooner than later.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Brown called on the department to fast track the rule-making timeline for critical safety measures, including driver training and operator enforcement.
“It is time for the DOT to act upon a number of commonsense safety improvements. These actions will save lives,” Brown wrote. “In the past three months, crashes in Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, Maine and Missouri reiterate the clear need to act promptly on these standards. That is why I request that you accelerate the rule-making time line on these critical safety measures.”
The legislation, based on National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, includes safety belts, anti-ejection glazing windows, crush-resistant roofs, improved fire protection, a National Commercial Motor Vehicle Medical Registry, strengthened motorcoach vehicle safety inspections and electronic on-board recorders.
The Bluffton baseball team was traveling to Florida for a tournament when its bus plunged from a bridge and crashed onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta.
The March 2, 2007, crash killed players Tyler Williams, of Lima; Scott Harmon, of Elida; David Betts, of Bryan; Cody Holp, of Arcanum; and Zachary Arend, of Oakwood. The bus driver and his wife, Jerome “Jerry” and Jean Niemeyer of Columbus Grove, also died.
“The recent bus accident tragedy and loss of life among our colleagues at Seton Hill University is a particularly pointed reminder to the Bluffton University community that, while much has been accomplished in recent years to improve motor coach safety requirements for the benefit of all passengers, some key commonsense requirements have not yet been fully implemented,” Bluffton President James Harder said. “We are grateful for the commitment of individuals such as Sen. Brown, John Betts and others, and support their efforts to ensure that this important life-saving motor coach safety legislation is fully implemented in the near future.”
John Betts, whose son David died in the crash, pushed for the legislation and worked closely with Brown. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, co-sponsored the bill.
The Seton Hill crash Saturday killed the bus driver and a pregnant coach. The bus was carrying the women’s lacrosse team. Twenty-three were injured.
“This most recent tragic crash underscores the urgency of implementing these commonsense safety measures,” Brown said. “Stronger tour bus safety standards are long overdue and will protect both passengers and other motorists on the road. That’s why I’m urging Secretary LaHood to make this rule-making a top priority.”