Fatigue, Distraction Contributes to Bus Accidents on Highways

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Bus accidents can be particularly devastating in the damage they can cause, both to other vehicles and to bus occupants. Because of the large size of most buses, they are more difficult to maneuver and take longer to slow down. Tractor-trailers are the only other common highway vehicles that present similar dangers. Ensuring that bus drivers are alert and free of distraction is crucial to highway safety. Several bus accidents in recent months have involved driver fatigue and alleged inattention to hazardous road conditions. Other drivers’ distraction can also contribute to bus accidents. Federal investigators blamed a deadly 2010 Missouri crash, which involved two school buses, in part on driver distraction.

Driver fatigue was reportedly the direct cause of a bus crash in Maryland that injured five passengers. A charter bus was transporting a group of teachers from Newark, New Jersey to Baltimore on Interstate 95 on December 21, 2012. The bus driver allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel at about 9:00 a.m.. The bus struck a guardrail, went off the road, and came to rest on an embankment. Five people were taken to nearby hospitals with back and neck injuries, but fortunately none were serious. The bus driver was reportedly cited by police for driving while fatigued and negligent driving.

An Oregon bus accident on December 30, 2012, which also allegedly involved driving while fatigued, had much more severe consequences. A tour bus with about forty passengers travelling from Las Vegas to Vancouver crashed through a guardrail on Interstate 84 at about 10:30 a.m. It slid to the bottom of a 100-foot embankment. Nine people were killed in the crash and thirty-nine suffered injuries.

The bus company blamed “black ice,” ice that forms on highways in cold weather and is nearly invisible to drivers, for the crash. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial trucks and buses, attributed the accident to driver fatigue. The bus driver, the FMCSA claimed, had been on-duty for ninety-two hours during the week of the crash. The maximum amount of time a driver may be on-duty in a week, per FMCSA regulations, is seventy hours, and only a portion of that time may be spent driving.

Distraction by a cellphone contributed to a multi-vehicle crash in Gray Summit, Missouri that involved two school buses and killed two people on August 5, 2010. In its final report on the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concluded that a pickup truck driver was distracted by text messages on his cellphone, causing him to collide with the rear of a semi tractor. Highway Accident Report HAR-11-03 (NTSB, Dec. 13, 2011) at 80. A school bus, whose driver was distracted by another vehicle on the road, collided with the pickup truck. A second school bus, whose driver was following too close, collided with the first school bus. The driver of the pickup truck and a passenger on the first school bus died in the crash. The accident prompted the NTSB’s campaign to encourage states to ban all cellphone use while driving.

Auto accident attorney Doug Horn is an advocate for safe driving in the greater Kansas City area. He represents the rights of people who have suffered injuries or lost loved ones due to the negligent or illegal conduct of others. Contact us today online or at (816) 795-7500 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Highway Accident Report, Multivehicle Collision Interstate 44 Eastbound, Gray Summit, Missouri, August 5, 2010 (PDF file), HAR-11-03, National Transportation Safety Board, December 13, 2011

Photo credit: Alvimann from morguefile.com.