In August of 2016, five people were killed and many were injured when a charter bus crashed on route 99 near the town of Livingston, CA. in the Mojave Desert. The bus struck a sign support pole at 3:35 AM, which tore the bus down the middle. The bus, owned and operated by Autobuses Coordinados USA Inc., began its route in Mexico and had stopped in Los Angeles prior to the crash. The bus involved in the crash had been cited for at least seven violations in two years, including allowing a driver behind the wheel with a suspended license.
Unfortunately stories about tragedies like this are the subject of national news broadcasts frequently. They often involve multiple deaths and injuries. Some states experience a higher bus crash rate than others. California is one state that has an unusually high bus crash rate. But why are charter buses the subject of these stories more frequently than any other type of bus and what are the factors that often lead to a crash?
Buses can be divided into three categories – local and long-range commuter buses, school buses and charter buses. Charter buses are often owned and operated by smaller private companies. They may be sole operators of a single bus or have fleets of varying size. They are used for taking private groups on tours or outings, transporting sports teams or many other for-hire situations. Unlike commuter buses where the drivers operate the same routes repeatedly, charter bus drivers are often driving on unfamiliar roads, sometimes in adverse conditions.
Determining the cause of a bus accident is paramount in defining who is responsible. The leading causes of charter bus crashes have been identified as follows:
· Bus Company Negligence and Poor Maintenance – Despite serving more than 7 million passengers per year in the US, a number similar to the airline industry, bus companies are not subject to as stringent record keeping and inspections. Following a serious crash it is not uncommon for information to be obtained exposing poor driver training or prior maintenance violations to keep their profit margins higher while sacrificing public safety.
Many older buses in the tour bus fleets are not equipped with seat belts, which can greatly increase the number of fatalities and injuries in an accident. Poor or improper maintenance of brakes, lights, steering or other equipment can lead to a crash.
· Driver Negligence – Charter bus companies often disregard the many laws in place that are intended to regulate bus drivers. The “hours of service” laws are meant to limit the amount of hours a driver can be on the road before taking a required break prior to starting a new shift. Drivers may exceed speed limits, or be distracted by texting or making a phone call. When a driver is poorly trained or negligent and causes an accident, the accountability lies with the bus company that was responsible for hiring and training that driver.
· Driver Fatigue – A top cause of highway deaths in the US is fatigue. Fatigue can be caused by working long hours, lack of sleep or sleep apnea. Drivers with obstructive sleep apnea have a 2.5 greater chance of having a highway accident according to a recent study. The rate of truckers with sleep apnea is 28% compared to 4% of the general population according to the American Trucking Association. The rate for bus drivers cannot be much different due to the similarity of their occupations.
· Bad Weather – Poor weather conditions couple with other factors like the weight of the bus, the speed of the bus, the inexperience of the driver and/or defective equipment can lead to a crash. Bus drivers should be properly trained to handle any weather situation and adjust their driving accordingly.
· Another Driver – With the number of vehicles traveling the highway, many of which are operated today by distracted drivers, another driver may fail to use proper caution or disobey traffic regulations and cause a crash. Drivers must be aware that buses, like trucks, often have blind spots, especially to the right side of the bus. Driving in those areas is extremely dangerous.
If you are injured in a bus accident either as a passenger or in another vehicle, you need to hire an experienced bus accident attorney. Bus crashes occur when bus companies fail to place safety as a priority. It is the attorney’s job to determine the exact cause of the crash through extensive investigation and reconstruction of the crash. The drivers record, the bus maintenance records, past safety violations and all other possible contributing factors are scrutinized. If there is negligence, the bus company will be held accountable and you may be able to collect a substantial award for pain and suffering, lost income, medical bills and more.
Vititoe Law Group is here to ensure that bus companies take safety seriously. If you or a loved one were injured in a bus accident, call today for a free evaluation of your case. Do not deal with the bus companies insurance company alone. They are not on your side. Get an experienced attorney who will fight tenaciously to recover what you truly deserve. Call Vititoe Law Group today at 818-851-1886. Do not wait as evidence disappears with time.