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Feds unveil app for safety-minded bus passengers

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new app, SaferBus, allows passengers to review a bus company's safety record
  • Users can access records on nearly 6,000 interstate commercial passenger carriers
  • The app comes as bus operators face increased safety scrutiny
  • More than 841,000 buses are registered in the United States

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation is going high-tech in hopes of keeping bus passengers safe. A new app, SaferBus, allows passengers to review a bus company's safety record before they book travel or buy tickets.

The program, "Look Before You Book," allows users to access safety records on nearly 6,000 interstate commercial passenger carriers. The safety records consist of safety and inspection data collected on private bus lines, school buses and tour bus operators.

To use the app, passengers can search the bus company or the company's registration number. Information provided by the app reveals who owns the bus and the bus company's safety record.

The move to introduce the app comes as bus operators face increased safety scrutiny.

In January, a federal judge ordered a Pennsylvania-based bus company to stop operations after reports the bus line continued service in violation of a USDOT order.

In that case, inspections found multiple violations of hours-of-service, vehicle maintenance and drug and alcohol testing rules. At the time, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, "We will not tolerate irresponsible bus companies that jeopardize the safety of bus passengers and other motorists."

A search of the SaferBus app by CNN showed the company involved in the January case was listed as "not allowed to operate."

The Federal Motor Vehicle Carrier Association's latest statistics show there were 221 passenger bus related fatalities in 2009, down from the previous two years.

More than 841,000 buses are registered in the United States traveling more than 14 million miles annually. Right now, the app is only available for the iPhone and iPad. There's no word on whether the DOT intends to release the app for other smartphone operating systems.

CNN's Mike Ahlers contributed to this story.

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