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Schumer, Gillibrand Propose Bill For Mandatory Bus Driver Training

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Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have co-sponsored a federal bill to improve the training of commercial bus drivers, after a crackdown took off the road several tour buses similar to the one involved Saturday's deadly accident in the Bronx.

Currently, federal regulations do not require drivers to have training. The measure is being proposed after two crashes in the last week involving tour buses based in the city killed 17 people.

Besides training drivers on how to handle fires, the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act would also require buses to be less flammable and have safety belts, stronger seating systems, anti-ejection windows and tougher roofs that can withstand rollovers.

Also, medical examiners who help conduct physical exams on bus drivers would have to come from a national registry.

“I’m not going to rest until we get to the bottom of what happened in both of these crashes, and put in place the necessary safeguards to make commercial buses as safe as they possibly can be,” said Schumer in a statement.

The senators' statement said that half of all bus fatalities in the last decade have resulted from rollovers, and that 70 percent of those deaths involved people who were ejected from a bus.

This comes as the Manhattan Traffic Task Force is conducting surprise inspection of tour buses in the city.

On Tuesday, the task force worked between Allen and Grand streets in Chinatown and took off the road several tour buses similar to the one involved in Saturday's deadly accident in the Bronx.

The six buses were cited for a number of issues, including improper air pressure for brakes, steering violations, and out of date log books. Drivers were also found to be lacking current medical cards.

The bus operators were issued 40 court summonses for not having fire extinguishers or flares on the buses and other equipment violations.

Police also say inspections were made Wednesday at the Port Authority, and that no violations or arrests were made. They said that drivers are now doing a better job of following rules and leaving bad buses off the road.

Meanwhile, investigators Tuesday interviewed the bus driver involved in Saturday's deadly accident that killed 15 people.

While details of the interview have not been released, NY1 has learned it lasted three hours.

The National Transportation and Safety Board is hoping to figure out what bus driver Ophadell Williams was doing before he left Mohegan Sun Casino and in the moments leading up to the crash.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a state investigation into how Williams was able to hold a valid commercial drivers’ license.

Earlier this week, officials told the Associated Press that Williams had his license suspended in 1995 for failure to respond to two tickets. Williams also served two years in prison for manslaughter and has convictions for theft.

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