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Failure to Screen Bus Companies Places Athletes at Risk for Accidents

Back in 2007, a bus accident in Atlanta, involving a vehicle carrying baseball players of Bluffton University, Ohio killed seven people on board, including five players, the driver and his wife. That accident was blamed on driver error, as well as the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation to maintain important traffic safety devices.

A new report by ESPN brings back memories of that tragic accident, and underscores how much at danger our college athletes are when they travel in buses that are operated by companies with a bad safety record.An analysis done by ESPN’s Outside the Lines shows that between 2007 and 2008, hundreds of college teams and athletes traveled on buses operated by companies that have frequently failed to comply with federal bus safety standards. During this period, close to 85 Division I universities used charter bus companies that were found to be deficient in at least one federal safety score.Even worse, of these 85 universities, close to 35 were been found to have hired buses from companies that have more serious safety infractions on their record. These companies have what is called a "constitutional rating," meaning that the schools should have been refrained from using the company.

Problems at a number of these bus companies used by colleges and universities included faulty maintenance of the buses.Drivers were found to be less than qualified, and too inexperienced to operate these buses. Tinkering of log books was found to be widespread.Manipulating log books allows drivers to clock in more number of hours than is permitted, ending up with more money for the driver, but seriously jeopardized safety for the passengers of the bus. Drivers were also allowed to work for several days before undergoing drug and alcohol testing. Other more serious problems included malfunctioning emergency exits. Studies indicate that bus companies that are found to be deficient in safety scores have a higher incidence of accidents. What’s worse is that authorities at colleges, who had used these buses frequently, when contacted by the ESPN team, were simply unaware that the companies had all these violations to their credit.

With universities trying to cut down costs, more of them are ferrying students by buses rather than airplanes.It’s fair to assume that none of these students will be aware of the safety record of the company that operates and owns the bus, or the capability of the driver who’s driving it.In short, universities are trusting unsafe companies with the safety and lives of their students, and there can be little excuse for such negligence. Not being aware of a bus company’s safety record is hardly an excuse. The safety of athletes who are traveling is the responsibility of the university they are playing for, and it’s condemnable that these colleges don’t see it necessary to screen the bus companies they hire thoroughly, before they award a contract. As Atlanta bus accident attorneys, we strongly feel that student safety should be worth much more than this.