Fatal Bus Accidents in Massachusetts

Fatal Bus Accidents in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State Police has a special unit called the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section (CVES) which is responsible for enforcing the laws and regulations for buses traveling in Massachusetts. It operates weigh stations equipped with inspection facilities.

The CVES conducts roadside inspections, checking on the safety of vehicles and their passengers. It is also responsible for local commercial vehicle enforcement and carries out investigations into all bus crashes within the state.

Crash Statistics

YearTotal Bus CrashesFatalitiesInjuries

There was a significant rise in the number of bus crashes in 2016 over the previous year which resulted in more than double the number of deaths and over 50 percent more injuries. The data recorded for 2017 covers only the first quarter of the calendar year, ending March 31. One fatality had been recorded at that stage, with 77 injuries resulting from 69 accidents. These statistics seem to suggest that the upward trend in crashes and injuries will continue in 2017.

These statistics were sourced from the databases of FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) and MCMIS (Motor Carrier Management Information System). Looking at national statistics for all states combined, the U.S. showed a decrease in fatalities from 326 in 2015 to 297 the following year, while the total number of injuries increased slightly.

Crash Contributing Factors

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) was mandated by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 to conduct a study into the causes of bus accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) attached to the USDOT published a report of its findings in 2009.

The FMCSA based its study on 39 fatal and serious injury crashes in 2005 and 2006. These accidents involved 40 buses, as one of them involved a collision between two buses. Motor coaches were involved in 65 percent of these crashes.

The following events occurred in 19 accidents that made collisions unavoidable:

  • Pedestrians entering the driving lane
  • Driving too fast in unsafe roadway or weather conditions
  • Changing lanes or running off the road
  • Encountering a stationary vehicle in the driving lane

The FMCSA also concluded that many of these collisions could have been avoided if drivers had recognized the danger and reacted sooner. It found that driver error was to blame for 15 of the 19 crashes. Reasons for this included inattention, inadequate surveillance, and following too closely behind the vehicle ahead.

The study showed that some situations were compounded by prescription drug use or problems with vision or hearing. In many cases, the driver’s line of sight was obstructed by an object or flowing traffic.

Bus Laws and Regulations

Massachusetts law requires every passenger bus to submit proof that the vehicle is safe to carry its maximum load. Limitations are also imposed on the size and weight of buses.

Every bus seating more than seven passengers must be equipped with a set of approved wheel safety chock blocks. Buses must first undergo an inspection before being granted a permit to operate. Their maintenance records must be available for examination by any law officer at any time.

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