Driver Fatigue—The Enemy of Bus Accident Safety

“Deadly bus crash caused by fatigue, speed, poor judgment”

“Police: Driver fatigue likely contributed to highway bus crash”

“Official cause of horrific bus crash: driver had almost no sleep”

Look at the headlines. Time after time, bus accidents are blamed on the same cause: tired drivers.

According to a recent article in Limo, Charter, and Tour magazine, “Fatigued driving is the primary ‘uncontrolled risk’ in the bus and motorcoach industry and is the primary cause of most severe accidents. Fatigue likely is the cause of up to 15% of all bus industry crashes, but is responsible for 80% of total claim costs.”

If, by coincidence, you’re reading this article while traveling on a bus, look right now at the driver. Does he seem alert? Is he well rested? Or is he a little sluggish, zoned out, or dazed because he has been working too many days in a row with too little sleep? Is your bus in danger of crashing right now?

Why is bus driver fatigue so common a problem?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the national regulator for bus safety. Its bureaucrats understand the risks from bus driver sleepiness, and so they set up strict rules requiring plenty of rest for drivers.

Those rules simply aren’t working, because the two types of drivers face different challenges in their working conditions.

  • Transit bus operators and school bus drivers work in and near a single, compact area: perhaps a city, a county, or a school district. Their jobs have low prestige and low pay. Many drivers are forced to work more than one job to make ends meet for their families. So even though the school district’s records show that Mrs. Johnson drives the bus only four hours a day, she may be laboring under enormous fatigue because she also holds down two other jobs. It’s no wonder that she can hardly keep her eyes open behind the wheel.
  • Commercial motorcoach and tour bus operators face different pressures. These drivers carry passengers from city to city, sometimes on long overnight or multi-day trips. Bus company rules may limit the drivers to working a maximum 16 hours a day, but don’t expect that the remaining eight hours are restful sleep. Often, the driver is required to spend a good deal of that time supervising bus maintenance at the depot or filling out paperwork for the trip. Maybe he will get two or three hours of sleep tonight; maybe he’ll have to being the next morning with no rest at all.

You can hold the bus company responsible

Who is to blame when a drowsy bus operator causes a horrific crash?

Buses fall under the rules that apply to common carriers, a term for most vehicles that transport people for pay. Under the law, the usual negligence standards don’t apply to the people who operate these vehicles and the companies that employ the drivers. Instead, they are held to an even higher standard: they must provide bus passengers with the highest degree of care compatible with the vehicle operation.

When a bus driver falls asleep on the job and causes an accident, he isn’t demonstrating the highest degree of care—and neither is the company that knows (or should have known) about the driver’s drowsiness but allowed him to operate the vehicle anyway. Both the driver and the company can be held liable for the losses you may have suffered in an accident. Those losses can include the cost of your medical care, damaged property, current and future wage losses, mental distress, pain, and other damages.

Get a FREE bus accident injury consultation

Call us today at (888) 653-3636 or fill in the online contact form to schedule a FREE and confidential consultation about your case.

Our results speak for themselves. Ostroff Injury Law obtained a $17+ million verdict and paid settlements against Greyhound Bus Company for a Union County, PA crash. The company had initially tried to blame a small, independently-owned truck company for the crash. After six weeks on trial, the firm proved Greyhound was the sole cause of this crash. The jury agreed with Ostroff Injury Law and rendered a verdict with an extra $2 million punishment to Greyhound.