Another Bus Crash, Another Call for Legislative Action

In the wake of another tragic bus accident, the neighborhood’s elected officials gathered in Chinatown today to renew their calls for stronger laws regulating interstate bus companies. More on their pleas in a moment.

First, there have been some other developments in Virginia, where the crash happened early this morning. The driver, Kin Ku Cheung of Flushing,  was arrested and charged with reckless driving. He’s jailed  in Hanover County, Virginia, on $3,000 bond. Cheung, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries. Investigators are blaming the crash on driver fatigue.

Photo: Virginia State Police

The Sky Express Bus veered off the road in Virginia and flipped over shortly after 5 a.m.  Four women were killed and many others injured. The bus left Greensboro, N.C., at 10:30 p.m. Monday night and was headed for Chinatown. The Daily News reports:

Sky Express has an abysmal safety record, with four previous crashes – including one that resulted in a fatality, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records. Sky Express has been the subject of four compliance investigations since 2008, the records show. The bus company was cited for 46 violations related to fatigued driving, including three that were classified as serious, in the past two years. Their drivers have also been cited for 17 unsafe-driving violations, including eight speeding violations since 2009. Of all the motor coach companies recently surveyed by the feds, Sky Express had the worst score (99.7%) in the “driver fitness” category and earned lousy scores for fatigued drivers (86.2%) and overall unsafe driving (62.9%).

Following a tragic bus crash in the Bronx in March, the New York State Assembly passed legislation that would set up a permit system for interstate buses operating in New York City. But a similar version of the bill has not come up for a vote in the Senate — with just three weeks left in the legislative session.

This afternoon, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilwoman Margaret Chin faced a huge pack of reporters, lined up on the sidewalk in front of a Sky Express office on Chrystie Street. Silver lamented the new tragedy, and called on his colleagues in the Senate to follow the Assembly’s lead. Margaret Chin spoke most forcefully of the three, asking, “how many more people have to die before our government passes laws to regulate this industry?” As numerous community activists looked on, Chin specifically pointed a finger at Republicans in Albany and Washington.

Squadron has been trying to push the legislation through in the Senate, but noted the difficulty any Democrat faces in a deliberative body controlled by the opposition party. All three elected officials urged voters to write and call Republican leaders, in an effort to pressure them to act.

The bill would allow the City Council to set up a permitting system and, by extension, to create standards and basic regulations for bus companies. Lawmakers in Washington are also trying to pass legislation regulating the industry. Community Board 3 has been urging legislative action at the city, state and federal levels for several years.

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