Remember when the age-old problem of drunk driving was the main source of bone-crushing terror for parents sending their kids off to college? It should still be of big concern, of course. The CDC says, “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens [and a]mong male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2005, 37% were speeding at the time of the crash and 26% had been drinking.”
Bad enough. But now, the universe has graced us with some new roadway hazards, and fortunately, there are valiant efforts being made to do something about them.
If you’re a college kid living and going to school on the east coast, you are no doubt aware – and have probably traveled on - the “Chinatown buses,” the super cheap, curbside pick-up buses that shuttle “about 1,800 passengers a day between Manhattan, Boston, Washington and places as far south as Florida.” One might think traveling on a bus provides a far safer trip than driving oneself. But yesterday, the U.S. Transportation Department, “citing imminent safety hazards, … ordered 26 companies … to stop operating” many of these buses. Writes the New York Times,
The crackdown was the most sweeping action ever taken against American passenger-bus operators and was intended to chasten other low-budget companies that might try to evade safety regulations and the relatively small pool of inspectors who enforce them, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
“Shutting them down will save lives,” Mr. LaHood said at a sidewalk news conference in Chinatown.
The 26 companies were affiliated with three “unscrupulous” networks of bus operators that ignored federal rules and, when they were caught, simply changed names and continued operating, said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who was also in Chinatown. …
The safety administration, which regulates more than 4,000 bus companies, started investigating the curbside bus industry last June amid what seemed like a wave of crashes en route to or from Chinatown. Inspectors found that many of these companies hired drivers without checking their backgrounds, testing for use of drugs and alcohol or verifying that they had the proper licenses.
We found this interesting, too:
Thomas G. Jebran, the chairman of the American Bus Association, which represents bus companies big and small, said his members welcomed tougher enforcement of the regulations. "There are some bad apples out there that, frankly, it took way too long for them to deal with," he said. Mr. Jebran said his association supported many of the stricter rules Mr. Schumer has pushed for in a broad transportation bill that is pending in Congress. Those rules would sharply increase fines for violations and would require companies to display their safety ratings on their buses and on the Web sites they use to sell tickets, Mr. Schumer said. Ultimately, he said, he would like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to adopt a letter-grade rating system similar to the one that is now used by New York City restaurant inspectors.
(Industry supporting regulation and enforcement! Maybe NYC Mayor Bloomberg should ask this guy for help countering the soft drink industry’s pushback against his latest restaurant health initiative - banning large soft drinks – just as the city celebrates National Donut Day. Timing, Mr. Mayor! OK, back to the roads.)
The other big and relatively recent road hazard, particularly for kids, is distracted driving – texting, especially. According to a recent study by the University of California, San Diego’s Trauma Epidemiology and Injury Prevention Research Center, “Seventy-eight percent of college students reported that they drive while talking or texting on a cell phone, and about 50 percent said they text while driving on a freeway.”
One texting tragedy led to the founding of the group End Distracted Driving:
Casey Feldman, of Springfield, was a 21-year-old Fordham University senior when she was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2009 in Ocean City, New Jersey, when walking to her summer job. In the aftermath of that devastating tragedy, Casey’s family and friends launched a campaign through the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation to raise awareness of distracted driving and of the injury and grief it can cause.
Learn more about End DD and other groups here. EndDD has done an incredible job organizing volunteers – including many trial lawyers - to go into the schools and teach kids about the extreme dangers of distracted driving.
Reports the group,
In April 2012, hundreds of attorneys committed to making our communities a safer place to live will provide End Distracted Driving campaign presentations at hundreds of schools, community groups, civic organizations and other gatherings in every state in the U.S. and every province throughout Canada
This effort to reach more than 100,000 student drivers will kick-off an ongoing campaign that will continue throughout 2012 and beyond.
Lawyers and others interested speaking or hosting an event should go here. Travel safe this weekend!