Healy Scanlon Law Firm

Trial begins against fatigued driver in fatal bus accident

Chicago residents have read about the number of bus accidents that have occurred in the city and throughout the state of Illinois in recent months. These crashes inevitably raise questions regarding the buses' maintenance records and the drivers' levels of alertness. Bus companies owe passengers a heightened responsibility to ensure that buses are in proper working condition and that their drivers are well-rested and qualified to operate the vehicle.

In one particularly devastating out-of-state accident, however, it appears that the driver was working on a significantly diminished quantity of sleep. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, driver fatigue led to the deadly March 2011 crash. An NTSB investigation revealed that the driver had not slept very much in the days leading up to the accident. In addition, the man's driving record was described as "terrible." During 20 years, he had received 18 driving suspensions.

The bus was traveling through the Bronx on the highway at a speed of 78 miles per hour. The listed speed limit for that area is 50 miles per hour. The driver lost control, and the bus landed on its side. Its roof was sheared off by the impact, killing 15 passengers and injuring 15 others. The driver said that he was cut off by a tractor-trailer, but the NTSB inquiry could not find much evidence to support that claim.

Prosecutors are trying the man on charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. The trial began late last month, and in his opening statement, the lead prosecutor noted that the accident investigation showed that the driver did not downshift or apply the brakes in an attempt to slow the bus down in the moments before the crash.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Prosecutors say fatigued driver caused deadly bus crash," Jonathan Allen, Sept. 27, 2012

• Bus companies may also be found civilly liable where drivers commit negligent acts in the scope of their employment that lead to passenger injuries. You can learn more by visiting our Chicago bus accident page.

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