Occasionally we see a report of a commercial vehicle crash in which the alleged cause of the wreck perfectly matches the company’s poor safety record. Today, a bus en route from Brooklyn, New York to Doraville in metro Atlanta, operated by Indianapolis-based Princess Tours, Inc., ran off a road in Virginia.  The bus driver, Qilong Xiao, 50, of Flushing, N.Y., was charged with reckless driving.  According to Virginia State Police spokeswoman, speed was believed to be a factor in the crash.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that Princess Tours has an unaccepted 74.8% rating for “unsafe driving” based upon repeated citations for excessive speed.

This crash happened on a snow covered highway. Both trucks and buses in interstate commerce are required to exercise “extreme caution” in weather conditions affecting traction and visibility. The Commercial Driver’s License manuals gets a little more specific, telling drivers: “Reduce speed by about one-third (e.g., slow from 55 to about 35 mph) on a wet road. On packed snow, reduce speed by a half, or more.  If the surface is icy, reduce speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you can safely do so.”

I would bet a steak dinner at Bone’s that this bus driver didn’t comply.

It appears this may be consistent with the “Chinatown bus lines” operations that in recent years have become notorious for unsafe operations, especially in routes running out of New York City. Popular due to low fares, these operations often use older vehicles in which equipment issues are common. Princess, however, appears to operate on a tour charter basis, unless it was operating under contract with one of the “Chinatown bus lines.”

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Princess has liability insurance for the first million dollars with Prime Insurance Company and from $1 million to $5 million with Axis Surplus Insurance Company.

Ken Shigley is past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, and lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice.  His Atlanta-based civil trial practice is focused on representation of plaintiffs in cases of castastrophic personal injury and wrongful death.