Bus driver fatigue is a significant issue that has been compared to drunk driving in terms of how much it impacts a driver’s ability to safely control a motor vehicle. Drowsy and fatigued bus drivers pose a serious threat to the safety of passengers, other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Unfortunately, the nature of the job increases the odds of bus driver fatigue.
How Driver Fatigue Can Cause Bus Accidents
In 2021, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported that 204 buses were involved in fatal crashes in the United States. The majority were school buses (80) and transit buses (78). Many serious and fatal bus accidents each year are traced back to bus driver negligence, or the failure to act with ordinary care. A common example is bus driver fatigue.
Fatigue or drowsiness interferes with a bus driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle. It presents a critical impairment to a driver’s senses, attention and reaction times. Drowsy driving can result in delayed responses to unexpected road events, an ability to detect hazards and decreased decision-making skills. These issues all increase the odds of a bus accident.
What Causes Bus Driver Fatigue?
Fatigue is a common issue among commercial bus and truck drivers. Individuals who transport goods and passengers for money – known as common carriers – are subject to work conditions that increase the odds of a driver experiencing fatigue on the job. This is why the FMCSA enacted hours-of-service regulations to limit the number of hours drivers are permitted to be on-duty without rest periods.
Job factors that contribute to bus driver fatigue include:
- Overnight shifts or reversed sleep schedules
- Unhealthy diet or lifestyle
- Long working hours
- Monotonous driving conditions (e.g., repetitive bus routes)
- Inadequate sleep (sleep deprivation)
- Sleeping problems, such as insomnia
- Sleep apnea and other medical conditions
- Medications that induce drowsiness
- Pressure to violate hours-of-service restrictions
It is essential for bus companies to implement effective strategies for managing driver fatigue. They must ensure compliance with hours-of-service regulations, promote healthy lifestyle and sleeping habits, and provide adequate rest breaks to help prevent drowsy driving. Ongoing bus driver training on the signs of fatigue and how to manage it can also help drivers make more informed decisions on the road.
Who Pays for a Bus Accident Caused by Driver Fatigue?
If a bus driver is fatigued or falls asleep behind the wheel and causes a bus accident in Colorado, he or she can be held liable (financially responsible) for related damages. However, under the rule of vicarious liability, an employer can be held liable for the actions of an on-duty employee. If a bus driver was on the clock at the time of the wreck, the bus company, school, school district, government or another employer could be held liable.
A bus driver’s employer could also face direct liability for enabling driver fatigue. If there is evidence that a bus company or school failed to collect data on driver hours or establish fatigue management programs, this could be used to prove liability for a fatigue-related bus crash. All bus companies have a legal responsibility to take actionable steps to reduce the risk of driver fatigue.
If you or someone you love was recently injured in a bus accident involving driver fatigue in Colorado, contact a Denver bus accident attorney at Manning Law to request a free case consultation. We can help you bring a claim against one or more parties for failing to prevent bus driver fatigue.