Asleep At The Wheel? Driver Fatigue is Principal Cause of Bus Accidents

Bus accidents have been in the news quite a bit lately, and Congress is considering legislation that would increase safety standards for buses, such as requiring they be equipped with seat belts. And yet despite these worthwhile efforts, no changes have been made to address the number one cause of bus accidents: driver fatigue.

According to a study by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board, the independent federal agency charged with transportation safety), 36 percent of fatalities in bus crashes over the past decade have been caused by driver fatigue, making it the number one cause of deadly accidents.

Why are bus drivers so fatigued? The simple answer is lack of sleep, though the cause is more complicated. Bus drivers are governed by federal laws that prohibit driving a bus for more than 10 hours, or driving after having been on-duty for more than 15 hours. These rules are designed to ensure that drivers are spending their required time off sleeping, but many take other jobs on the side to supplement their income, further reducing their sleep time.

To make matters worse, even if a driver only works for one company, he or she isn't entitled to time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Most wage-earners who work over 40 hours a week are entitled to overtime, but an exception exists for bus drivers. Some drivers report working 100 hours a week just to earn a living-and you can be sure their ability to rest is suffering.

When the nation's bus drivers aren't well-rested, everyone on the road suffers. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that most of those killed in bus accidents were occupants of other vehicles. The second-largest group killed was pedestrians and bicyclists, while occupants of the bus itself were the safest group when it came to bus crashes.

When someone has been injured in an accident involving a bus crash, it is often difficult to determine whether the bus driver was fatigued at the time of the crash. An experienced personal injury law firm can use its resources to fully investigate the circumstances of the crash and obtain compensation for those injured.