It is a problem that is hiding in plain sight.
Choosing to travel via train or bus presents risks of serious injuries, yet restraints and the requirements to use them are lacking. Safety standards governing automobiles and airplanes mandate the use of seat belts. Personal motor vehicles provide the added protection of airbags for both drivers and passengers.
However, their counterpart conveyances are lacking in their efforts to ensure safe travel should accidents occur.
For years, the National Transportation Safety Board has continually encouraged the installation of shoulder seatbelts on trains and buses combined with a mandate that passengers use them. Other NTSB suggested safety-related initiatives involve Improving the structural integrity of windows – a particular “Achilles’ heel for trains – and providing overhead baggage restraints.
Yet, those pleas to Amtrak, Greyhound, and other carriers have fallen on deaf ears with their passengers paying the price.
While the past few years saw non-fatal injuries on trains and buses number in the thousands, fatalities in 2017 and 2018 are significantly smaller than over-the-road motor vehicles. However, the simple act of adding restraints and making other improvements could have literally made the difference between life and death for that supposedly miniscule statistic.
The Federal Railroad Administration has come down on the side of no seatbelts, alleging that they are not effective in increasing safety. Claiming comprehensive research, the agency asserts that risk and severity of injuries would only increase. Instead, their focus is on tables and seats providing containment and cushioning combined with improved windows, lighting and something they refer to as “structural crashworthiness.”
At one point, all commercial buses manufactured after 2016 were required to have seatbelts. However, passengers were not required to wear them, defeating the purpose of the law.
Passengers who choose the alternative to travel via bus or train have the benefit of saving a few dollars to get from one destination to another. However, affordability should not come at the cost of their safety.