The bus crash that killed four women and injured 43 passengers in Virginia has highlighted a frightening problem in the industry -- the lack of sleep bus drivers are getting.
"The consequence is an entire industry populated by people not getting enough sleep," Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents drivers at Greyhound and other companies, told the Associated Press in an article reprinted in the Virginian-Pilot.
While the driver of the deadly crash on May 31, 2011 on the I-95 in Caroline County, Virginia (VA) has been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, sleep scientists and labor experts say the "roots of the accident lie with an industry whose economic model often results in drivers on the road with too little rest and at hours when their bodies naturally crave sleep," the AP reported.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, between 13 and 31 percent of crashes involving commercial vehicles are due to driver fatigue. In the case of the Caroline County crash, extensively reported on by our Virginia (VA) bus personal injury attorneys, the bus driver was overheard talking on a cell phone about how tired he was, according to the AP.
According to his log he had completed a driving shift at 5:45 am on May 30, woke up at 6 pm, and started his next shift at 10 p.m. The Sky Express bus left Greensboro, North Carolina (NC), at 10:30 pm and made a number of stops before it crashed on the I-95 before 5 a.m. the following day.
"Federal regulations allow bus drivers up to 10 hours behind the wheel followed by a minimum of eight hours rest. That adds up to 18 hours, making it legal for a driver to work an entire shift and start a second shift all in one 24-hour period, said Greg Belenky, a sleep expert at Washington State University and former neuroscience division director at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research," the AP reported.
Our experienced Virginia bus personal injury attorneys see numerous tragedies that are linked to bus driver fatigue. In March, 15 people were killed when a World Wide Travel bus returning to New York's China Town hit a pole.
It's not clear if fatigue was a factor here but a lawsuit filed by two passengers claims the bus driver was asleep. According to a recent survey, as many as 36 percent of drivers in America admit to falling asleep behind the wheel of a car.
Our VA attorneys recently reported how state police were taking tired driving so seriously they set up checkpoints for truck drivers. Unfortunately the tour bus industry isn't so tightly policed for sleepy bus drivers.