Safety changes being adopted one year after deadly tour bus crash on I-10 near Palm Springs

Safety in focus after horrific crash

Safety changes being adopted one year...

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The crash scene was horrific, in the westbound lanes of Interstate 10, just north of Palm Springs, early Sunday morning, Oct. 23, 2016.

The tour bus was on the way back to Los Angeles from a stop at a valley casino, when it slammed into the back of a big rig, which had come to a stop, because of maintenance work being performed on the highway.

"My first thought, before I knew anything about it is, oh my gosh, I hope it's not one of my buses out there," said Chuck Xaudaro, a valley tour bus industry executive. 

12 passengers died in the crash, and so did the bus driver, Teodulo Vides.

Xaudoro says he's not surprised when crashes like this happen.

"There are other companies out there, and ones that are kind of fly by night, and they may not be following the rules as well," said Xaudaro.

Since the crash, bus safety expert Robert Berkstresser says a few changes have been made in the tour bus industry, which he says will improve safety, for an industry he says is "quite safe", when compared to other travel options.

The first, which went into effect last December, requires all new motor coaches to come equipped with three-point seat belts.

"Seat belts have been proven to save lives and diminish injuries," said Berkstresser.

Also, last December, the federal government announced new national training standards for new truck and bus drivers, which will go into effect in February 2020.

The standards will not require new drivers spend a minimum number of hours in training, but that they demonstrate a sufficient "theoretical understanding" of operating a bus, along with showing "sufficient skills" behind the wheel, prior to receiving a commercial license.

That would be on top of current requirements in California, where new drivers must pass a physical, a written test, and a driving test.

"Training always makes a difference," said Berkstresser.

Another new federal requirement for tour bus drivers, set to take effect next month, is for drivers to use electronic logging devices, which truck drivers are already required to use.

The devices record engine running time and allow regulators to determine if and when drivers exceed legal limits on the number of hours spent behind the wheel in a given 24 hour period. 

Berkstresser says that should help cut down on driver fatigue.

"We've found that a lot of these accidents we can track back to driver fatigue or a lack of alertness on the part of the driver," said Berkstresser.

Read more Stands For You reports

Unfortunately, new regulations won't change what happened one year ago, but could help prevent similar tragedies in the future.

"I'm a safety person.  I believe in safety, so i think anything we can do to make this a safer industry is a good thing," said Xaudaro.

There is also talk in the industry about possibly adding floor level emergency side exit doors on tour buses, similar to those on passenger planes.  However, there is no pending legislation that would make the doors a requirement. 

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