It’s one of the most iconic ways to tour Los Angeles, but the federal government has opened an investigation into the safety of the ‘Topless’ Tour Vans.
NBC 4 Los Angeles’ investigation team first called these tour buses on what appeared to be lax safety regulations. Many of the seats on the topless buses had modified seatbelts, or didn’t have seatbelts at all. The team also felt that the custom construction of the buses — the roofs have been removed — did little to protect riders in the event of an accident.
The United States Department of Transportation appears to agree with their sentiment and has sent letters to a handful of companies that operate tours with these buses, stating that they aren’t a safe method of transportation and that they should no longer be carrying riders.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also agrees and went a step further, asking the tour bus companies to provide information regarding the customization of their vehicles, as many of the changes don’t appear to be safe ones.
Though none of the tour companies have responded just yet, some of the car-customization shops responsible for the changes to the vans have. One mechanic said that he did reinforce the structure after cutting out the roof, though he did have to remove the vehicle’s shoulder belts in order to make it ‘topless.’ The manufacturers of the vehicles used by these tour companies said that it would be the mechanics’ responsibility to make sure that the vehicles met all safety standards, roofs or not.
Continued inaction on the part of the tour companies could be costly, as the NHTSA has given them a deadline to respond. If they don’t do so by September 19, they could face penalties of up to $21,000.
And, while no major accidents have occurred in any topless bus, the USDOT, NHTSA and the investigative team at NBC4 hope that their work will prevent any sort of tragedy. Thousands of tourists and locals alike rely on the topless buses for transportation into Hollywood and Beverly Hills to check out local landmarks and, of course, ritzy celebrity houses — and they should be able to do so leisurely and safely.