National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data indicates that some 71,000 nonfatal injuries and 1,550 fatalities result in every year from motor vehicle crashes that involve police-reported driver fatigue. However, it is widely recognized that these statistics underreport the problem due to inconsistent record-keeping and the lack of scientific tests to determine sleepiness at the scene of an accident.
Massachusetts truck driver fatigue cases are one example of this national problem. So are Massachusetts bus driver fatigue cases.
Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as drunk driving: one study found that drivers awake for 24 hours are as impaired as those with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 (the legal limit for driving is 0.08). Furthermore, fatigued driving is thought to be more widespread than drunk driving. In a survey conducted by AAA, 41 percent of drivers admitted that they had fallen asleep at the wheel.
Clearly, sleepiness behind the wheel can be a threat for any driver. However, a new government report suggests it is a particular problem for bus drivers entrusted with the safety of dozens of passengers.
A report released by the National Transportation Safety Board in November 2011 identifies driver fatigue as a scourge of the discount bus industry. Often, intercity bus drivers earn extremely low wages and are forced to put in time far in excess of the standard 40-hour workweek. Due to a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act, intercity bus operations are exempt from the requirement to provide overtime pay for work exceeding 40 hours a week, and drivers must often trade rest for other employment in order to make ends meet; one study found that a 10 percent higher driver base pay rate leads to a 34 percent lower probability of a bus crash.
Driver fatigue is the number one cause of motorcoach crash fatalities over the past decade, according to the new NTSB estimates. Fatigue is responsible for 36 percent of bus accident deaths, far ahead of the second most prevalent cause, which is vehicle condition (responsible for 20 percent of fatalities). In contrast, inattention and road condition is responsible for just 6 and 2 percent of deaths, respectively.
Fatigued bus drivers themselves may not have the resources to compensate for injured accident victims. But it is possible to still hold the companies themselves responsible. After all, company policies often have more to do with drowsy driving accidents than individual driver behavior.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a bus crash, contact a personal injury lawyer today. You may be entitled to monetary compensation, and your attorney will help you encourage safer practices in the busing industry by holding careless commercial vehicle drivers and companies accountable.