CHARTERED BUS ACCIDENTS – THE DANGERS OF DRIVER FATIGUE

images.jpgEarly on a Saturday morning in March, 2011, a chartered bus returning from Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut overturned at a high rate of speed on a highway in the Bronx causing the death of fifteen and injuring nineteen. The scene was described by witnesses as a grisly scene. The accident was listed as one of the worst accidents caused by driver’s fatigue. The problem is that people take the cheap chartered buses from the different boroughs of Manhattan to casinos in Connecticut and New Jersey, play the slots and tables for a few hours, and sleep on the bus on the way home. Unfortunately, the bus driver is not afforded that same luxury of sleeping on the way home.

Again in July, 2012, a Casino Bus on its way to Flushing Queens from the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut slammed into the median on I-95 and slid for about 500 feet. There were 23 passengers and fortunately all injuries were minor.

Due to the increasing number of accidents, the New York State Department of Transportation conducted an investigation of all tour bus companies. As a result of the investigation, it became clear that their very inexpensive bus trips became extremely costly in life and property damage.

The main cause for the bus accidents was driver’s fatigue. Driver fatigue has been studied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Bus drivers who have not gotten enough sleep are as dangerous as drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The NHTSA has determined that after a driver had no sleep for 17 hours, their motor skills are affected the same as a person with a blood alcohol level of approximately 0.05%. The NHTSA has determined in 2010 that drivers who fell asleep accounted for 3,600 accidents, 2,000 injuries and 32 fatalities. The New York State bus accident mentioned above caused more fatalities in one accident than all other accidents for 2010. The NHTSA has determined that annually falling asleep leads to 1550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents. Bus drivers who drive numerous hours in a 24 hour period suffer from fatigue and accidents result.

A further effect of these accidents have a tremendous economical impact on no-fault in the State of New York. No-fault (which pays all medical bills and lost earnings and a death benefit) are paid when you occupy a vehicle over a certain tonnage (which includes buses) by your own automobile insurance rather than the bus’ insurance. Further, lawsuits that arise from those injured in a bus crash can result in the bus company’s liability insurance company paying out millions in pain and suffering and death awards in personal injury lawsuits.

There are several ways to prevent driver fatigue:

– plan ahead and get a good night sleep before any driving;
– Stop when you are tired – take breaks;
– Share the driving with another driver;
– Keep control of your vehicle – don’t always use cruise control;
– Trouble keeping your eyes open, distraction, or daydreaming are signs to pull over;
– Don’t ever drink alcohol and drive;
– Don’t drive when you are emotional or upset.

If you, or someone you know has been injured in a bus accident, or any motor vehicle accident where driver fatigue is suspected, call the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.