NEW YORK (AP) — Companies that run New York City's growing armada of double-decker sightseeing buses, like the ones involved in last week's Times Square crash, have no legal obligation to report accidents to the city agency that licenses them.
The Consumer Affairs Department — one of at least five entities involved in regulating the brightly colored behemoths — disclosed the loophole with The Associated Press as scrutiny of the buses intensified following the crash that injured 14 people Tuesday.
Spokeswoman Abby Lootens said city law does not require companies to report accidents to the department.
An aide to City Council transportation chairman Ydanis Rodriguez called the news "troubling" and said they would look into remedying it. This week Rodriguez proposed revoking city-issued licenses from companies whose drivers rack up multiple violations.
The lack of mandatory accident reporting is one of several critical gaps in the amalgam of agencies governing the city's booming sightseeing bus industry.
The police department, for one, lumps all buses in the same category on accident reports that go to state agencies involved in licensing drivers and inspecting the vehicles.
The state Transportation Department analyzes the reports but cannot quantify their accidents because of the broad categorization, spokesman Beau Duffy said.
The Transportation Department posts safety reports on its website, but those only convey inspection results.
Gray Line, the city's largest sightseeing company, had 11 percent of its 80 buses sidelined for mandatory repairs last year, Duffy said. One of its buses was involved in the Times Square crash.
Duffy said a rate of 20 to 25 percent would be cause for concern.
Other types of buses have different oversight and reporting requirements enabling the government to track their accidents, transportation officials said.
Because the city does not require the information, Consumer Affairs does not consider accidents when renewing a sightseeing company's license.
The department, set up primarily to police poor business practices, had already moved to revoke New York Apple Tours' license on that basis in 2000 when a company bus killed an actor near Times Square, and its final ruling came only after the state stripped the company of its bus registrations.
These holes in the regulatory system obscure the truest picture of the operational and safety history of the 263 double-decker buses — up from 57 a decade ago —dawdling along the city's most congested avenues.
The legal loophole and the police's imprecise records deprive the public of an important metric and leave companies without official numbers to back up their claims of high safety and few accidents.
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