As a trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the tragic truck and bus accidents with which I am all to familiar is the crash of a bus carrying the Bluffton University baseball team in Atlanta last March.

A Saturday morning crash of a Van Hool tour bus operated by Endeavor Bus Lines in Florida illustrates the failure of the US government to require seat belts in passenger buses. According to the Miami Herald report, “People got thrown everywhere.”  A similar Van Hool motor coach carrying the Bluffton University was involved in a fatal crash in Atlanta last March.  Several team members were ejected  and killed.  (We represent six of the surviving Bluffton team members in claims arising from that incident.)

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Standards in the U.S. do not require buses to have either seat belts (except for the driver) or laminated glass in side windows that would prevent passenger ejection. If the manufacturers spent as much on safety as they do on lobbyists, a lot of lives could be saved.   Almost anywhere else in the world, the same buses would have seat belts for all passengers.  For example, see this ad for a used Van Hool bus in Turkey (through a broker in South Africa) equipped with seat belts for each passenger.  Bus manufacturers’ only excuse for failure to provide such safety equipment for protection of passengers is to argue that omission of a mandatory requirement from federal regulations implies preemption of any obligation to do so.  Their excuse is essentially, "mama didn’t make me do it."  If courts ultimately reject the preemption defense, they have no other excuse.

I hope that the rash of tour bus crashes around the country within the past year will lead to passage of legislation to improve bus safety standards.


The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck and bus accidents.