By Queens Courier Staff |

Last week, a private tour bus traveling from Connecticut with 32 passengers crashed on the Westchester County/Bronx border, killing 15.

Only days later, another bus traveling from New York City en route to Philadelphia crashed in New Jersey, killing the driver and a passenger.

And on Monday, March 21, a tour bus owned by a Flushing-based company carrying Korean vacationers to Boston from Quebec crashed in New Hampshire, injuring five seriously and a total of 23 all together.

The local police and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continue with the investigations in all the crashes tragedies.

Early fingers point to possible driver fatigue, drivers who may have lied about suspended licenses and other non-inspectable causes.

We are sure that the authorities conduct regular bus inspections throughout the year. New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald cited over 160,000 such safety inspections to remove the unsafe drivers and buses from the roads.

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico echoed that thousands of roadside safety and regular commercial vehicle inspections are conducted each year by the New York State DOT and the State Police.

A recent stepped-up spate of commercial vehicle inspection and enforcement efforts resulted in 10 drivers being taken off the state’s roads. Of the 36 buses inspected, all were found to be safe.

The drivers’ infractions involved driving too many hours, according to their mandatory log books.

Ophadel Williams, the driver in the deadly Westchester/Bronx crash on March 12, apparently lied about the status of his license and his use of multiple names and at least one suspension under one of the names.

No one can inspect lies. But we can increase and strengthen the licensing process, proof of identity requirements and include harsh new penalties for lying to conceal other violations.

We feel that the current heightened level of safety inspections at points of origin or roadside must be maintained to weed out the few bad drivers in the private and commercial bus fleets.

We call on the authorities to review and strengthen the penalties for covering up bad driving records and license suspensions. All passengers deserve a safe, expeditious ride on our state’s highways and byways.

These penalties should be extended to private vehicle drivers too. All too often the drunk driver involved in deadly crashes is driving with multiple suspensions on his or her license. If these drivers are caught driving illegally – without a valid license – they should be jailed and their vehicles should be seized too.