Charter Buses, Just How Safe Are They?

Friday, May 9th 2014, 7:31 am
By: News On 6

Several times a year Green Country kids climb aboard charter buses to get to athletic and band events or to take field trips and go to other class outings.

After Thursday's spectacular charter bus fire, News On 6 asked if parents should be concerned about the safety of these charters.

The Creek Turnpike bus fire was just the latest in a string of recent incidents involving charter buses across the country.

5/8/2014 Related Story: Creek Turnpike Charter Bus Fire Ends Lawton Students' Trip

It's enough to make parents worry, but experts we talked with say there are steps you can take to help feel more confident your child returns safe and sound.

Whether it's a fire like the one on the Creek Turnpike or a crash, it seems like there are more accidents involving charter buses in recent years, because there are.

"The last couple of years we've seen an up tick in crashes. Bus fires are something that has been a problem," Steve Keppler, Executive Director, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

In December 2013, a charter bus slammed into a low bridge in New Jersey injuring a dozen passengers. All had to be taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

In Irving, Texas last year, three people died and 40 were hurt when the charter bus they were riding in overturned. The charter bus was headed to a Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma. Law enforcement claims the driver was negligent.

Last summer, more than 50 people were injured in Irwindale, California when the highway patrol said a charter bus driver made an unsafe lane change.

Two people died and more than 20 members of a college women's lacrosse team were injured when their charter crashed into a tree on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

And you may recall the Tulsa Oilers hockey team's charter bus caught on fire several years back with flames shooting from under the bus on the Will Rogers Turnpike, nobody was hurt.

11/5/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Oilers Bus Catches Fire On Will Rogers Turnpike; Sparks Grass Fire

These are just some examples. So, how can you check a charter service's safety record before that field trip or outing?

"I would certainly want to talk with whoever at the school is arranging for the transportation. And talk with them how they selected the company for that trip, the process they went through and frankly I would get the name and DOT number of that company," said Steve Keppler.

Once you get the charter company's DOT or Department of Transportation number, use it to look up its safety record online.

To see if a charter bus service is licensed and insured in Oklahoma; go to Oklahoma Corporation Commission's web site.

Also the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has information on its web site

It's very important to point out that travel by charter buses is one of the safest ways to go.

While not specifically commenting on any of the cases we've mentioned, industry experts tell

News On 6 the recent spike in incidents is because more low-cost carriers have entered the business and many cut corners with safety to keep their businesses running.