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Toughen bus regulations String of motor coach crashes shows the need for new safety rules

As the cost of flying becomes less and less attractive because of the rising expense or the sometimes demeaning security ritual at the airport, riding the bus may become an attractive alternative.

But for this to happen, safety standards have to be tightened, much as they have been for airline passengers.

While the shock and numbers of dead in one crash -- Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence Center -- drew the nation's attention and focused well-deserved attention on safety regulations, similar attention must be paid to the safety of bus travelers, a number of whom have been injured or killed in recent accidents.

An article by News Niagara reporter Nancy A. Fischer and News staff reporter Maki Becker detailed some of the accidents. A bus carrying 29 people in a Polish tour group from Niagara Falls to Trenton, N.J., went off Interstate 81 near Binghamton during a severe downpour. There were several injuries, including a woman who was trapped underneath the motor coach for an hour after it slid down an 80-foot embankment and overturned.

A month ago on Interstate 390 south of Rochester, a blown tire was blamed for a bus rollover that killed two women. In the worst crash, 15 passengers were killed in March when a tour bus overturned and was sheared in two by a highway sign pole.

To its credit, after that crash the state stepped up enforcement of safety regulations for tour buses.

One safety advocate has said that authorities need to get tougher on the tour bus and motor coach industry. She has testified to that effect in front of Congress before, and would be happy to do so again. Frankly, whatever it takes to ensure public safety obviously needs to be done.

State police have increased enforcement. But troopers can only go so far under current rules, inspecting logs and commercial licenses when someone is pulled over.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Coach Carrier Safety Administration is looking into shortcomings in the standards, which is a good step that could lead to tougher safety rules. And next month's Motor Coach Safety Summit, which New York State transportation officials requested, should translate into an action plan for improved safety.

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