Coach Safety In Spotlight Again Following Dorset Double Decker Crash

College Pupils Injured As Bus Leaves Road While Driver Learns Route

15.10.2012

Legal experts representing injured victims and the families of those killed in numerous bus and coach crashes in the UK and abroad have repeated their calls for an urgent safety review, following an incident which saw a double-decker carrying more than 50 students leave a road in Dorset.

Investigations are underway into the crash on the A350 near Poole, which happened this morning (October 15th) when the college pupils were being taken from Kinson in Bournemouth to Kingston Maurward College in Dorchester.

A spokesman for the First Group operation that operates the bus is reported to have confirmed that the driver was being monitored by a colleague as part of the process of learning the route. The company is also reported to have confirmed that the driver, who is apparently fully trained and qualified, had driven the route previously.

Clive Garner, a specialist at law firm Irwin Mitchell and a veteran of numerous bus and coach accident cases, said today: "At present very little is known about the cause of this latest horrific incident. The police will no doubt undertake a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the accident to get a full picture of how and why the coach left the carriageway.

“This will include consideration of the qualifications and experience of the coach driver and his suitability for driving on this route today. There will also be careful consideration of the care with which he was driving, his speed and the actions he took to control the vehicle. Clearly the police will want to determine whether, in their opinion, there has been any driver or other error which may give rise to criminal charges.

“As well as interviewing the coach driver himself and the colleague who was apparently monitoring him, the police will consider the coach’s tachograph to analyse the speed of the coach and its movements leading up to the crash. It is also understood that CCTV footage from inside the bus will be available for inspection. The police will also take statements from passengers and any other witnesses, analyse of the carriageway and driving conditions and examine any mechanical components of the coach which may have been defective or otherwise played a part.

“Dorset Police have confirmed that seven students and the driver of the bus were taken to hospital following the crash which occured when the coach left the carriageway. The incident is the latest of several major coach accidents in the UK and abroad this year, including a crash on the A36 near Bath last month when the tour bus of rock band Baroness came off a viaduct in heavy weather and a coach crash on the A11 near Elveden in Sussex in July this year which left nine people in hospital and 43 others injured.“

Travel law experts at Irwin Mitchell have successfully represented hundreds of victims of bus and coach accidents around the world. Current cases include acting for more than 20 passengers from Alvechurch Middle School near Birmingham who were seriously injured in a coach crash near Rheims, France in February this year when their coach left the road. The coach driver in that case has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Clive added: “There have already been several major bus and coach crashes this year and over many years we have repeatedly called for improvements in safety standards and regulations.  This includes ensuring improved driver training, as well  as better monitoring and oversight of the performance of bus and coach drivers. Longer breaks for drivers and better conditions for their rest periods are also called for as well as the selection and use of only the safest routes. At the same time, the need for improvements in the maintenance and servicing of buses and coaches should be reviewed.

“Through many years of experience in acting for victims of other crashes, we know how all of those involved and their families will be keen to learn answers about what happened, as well as having reassurances about improved safety standards in the future.

"We wish all of those injured a quick and complete recovery, but experience shows that it is too early to determine whether any of those injured will be left with long term or possibly permanent physical or psychological injuries following what must have been a terrifying ordeal. In all too many cases we see passengers who have had their lives changed by incidents like this and steps need to be taken now to improve safety standards and reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.”