Emergency personnel investigate the scene of a bus crash on Interstate-95 in the Bronx borough of New York Saturday, March 12, 2011. Thirteen people died when the bus, returning to New York from a casino in Connecticut, flipped onto its side and was sliced in half by the support pole for a large sign. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Sen. Charles Schumer is seeking an audit of all tour bus operators in New York following a fatal tour bus crash a week ago in the Bronx.
The New York Democrat is asking the state Department of Motor Vehicles to perform the audit, saying it would save lives by taking away the licenses of those unfit to drive.
“The audit would take effect before these drivers get behind the wheel, not after there’s an accident, not even after there’s a spot check on the road,” the senator said Sunday.
The Cuomo administration has already mounted stepped-up spot checks of tour buses since the crash. The checks have forced several buses and drivers out of service.
Schumer says he's particularly concerned about drivers for low-cost tours, which often travel to casinos.
Several bus passengers praised the idea of extra oversight.
"I think it's important for them to have certifications because if you're riding the bus, you don't really know if they're regulated or not because sometimes they'll pick you up in random spots in the city," said Ellis Rua.
Passenger Michael Ross Corbett, who was traveling to Boston, said that while he favors greater safety measures, the bus fare’s low cost is a big draw.
"It does make me feel good," said Ross Corbett. "But it's just the convenience of the bus, you can't beat $15 to Boston. I think you're going to take it regardless."
Schumer applauded Cuomo's efforts to increase unannounced inspections and says the DMV audit of drivers will augment that effort.
In a letter to Barbara Fiala, the state’s DMV Commissioner, Schumer wrote: "While many drivers working in New York are eligible to be licensed and have safe driving records, the growth of low-cost curbside carriers and the deadly consequences of Saturday’s crash on Interstate 95 demand we do a better job of ensuring that only drivers who are eligible to be behind the wheel are."
Records show that the driver in the Bronx crash, Ophadell Williams, had violations under an alias and his driving privileges were suspended under another name.
The Cuomo administration had no immediate reaction to Schumer's idea.