Are Tour Buses Safe?

When you’re traveling, in many ways, a tour bus can be a great option, as can charter buses. You might take a tour bus to see a specific site, to tour a larger location such as London, or to get a big travel group from one place to another.

There are frequently horror stories surrounding these buses, however, so you may be wondering if they’re safe. For example, in January, a tour bus going from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon rolled, killing one person and injuring 42 others.

Speed was believed to be a contributing factor to the accident, and the bus slid down the road, causing significant damage. The Las Vegas company operating the tour bus is being investigated.

So how do you know if a tour bus is safe? They aren’t inherently unsafe, but there are things to keep in mind before taking a tour bus on your next trip. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, charter buses are 50 times safer than being in a car and twice as safe as flying on a plane, but when there are accidents because of the size and weight of the bus, they tend to be quite severe.

Choosing a Bus Company

If you’re going to be taking a tour or charter bus, first, search for the company on the USDOT website. This accesses the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations’ database regarding safety and statistics for the company’s vehicles and drivers and their accident history.

You can use this information to choose the safest bus company. You also want to make sure the bus is registered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and you should check out the date of the last service maintenance the bus underwent.

Avoid companies with a history of accidents, especially recent accidents.

If you can’t find the name of a tour company in the database, you might directly contact that company and ask if they contract with a charter company. Then, you should be able to find the charter company listed in the FMCSA database.

Use the SaferBus App

Another option is to use the SaferBus app, which was actually created by the FMCSA and is free to use.

You can check on the status of bus companies registered with the Department of Transportation. You can also file a complaint against a bus company on the app.

What About Double-Decker Buses?

A lot of big cities in the U.S. and around the world have double-decker tour bus options available. These buses can be hazardous, so you might want to avoid them.

For example, in New York City in recent years, there have been double-decker tour bus accidents often because the bus collides with another truck or tour bus, or is going too fast.

Driver Error

The reason for some of the most deadly bus accidents in history is often driver error. Even if a bus company is listed as safe, you can’t always account for driver error. Sometimes, even beyond accidental driver error, bus drivers are in accidents because they’re fatigued when they’re behind the wheel or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

As an example, on Mother’s Day in 1999, 22 people on a bus in New Orleans were killed in a crash. An investigation showed that the driver’s marijuana use hours before the collision played a significant role. The driver had tested positive for drugs while working at other companies but he didn’t mention it to his new employer.

When you get on a bus, be mindful of the driver’s behavior and actions right away. If you feel unsafe or you feel like something isn’t right, don’t ride on the bus.

What If You’re Traveling by Bus Abroad?

If you’re going to travel by tour bus outside of the U.S., you won’t be able to check the federal database, so what should you do in that case?

You should ask any questions you might have to a tour operator or travel agent. Before booking anything, ask for recommendations.

You can also use sites like Trip Advisor to read about other people’s experiences with a particular tour bus company.

Avoiding nighttime travel and overnight buses can also be an essential part of staying safe when you’re on an international trip.

Overall, taking a tour bus or charter bus is not unsafe on its own, but you do need to do your research on the company and if possible, the driver beforehand.

Ask for recommendations and check federal government resources before you book anything.