Fatigue Cited As Cause in Deadly Bus Crash

Photo via CNN.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that a deadly bus accident was caused by “acute sleep loss” and “inadequate oversight by the bus company and the government.” CNN, 31 July 2012.

The accident occurred early the morning of May 31, 2011 on Interstate 95 in Virginia. Four people were killed and 59 injured when the bus drifted into the middle of the interstate, hitting a cable and overturning.

“This crash never should have happened,” said the board’s chairman, Deborah A.P. Hersman. “It was entirely preventable. Those travelers were failed at three levels: by the driver, the operator and the regulator.”

The safety board ruled out alcohol, drugs, cell phone use, weather, mechanical defects, speed and highway design as playing any role in the accident.

The report said the bus company’s failure to “exercise even minimal oversight of its drivers’ rest and sleep activities enabled the drivers to drive while dangerously fatigued.”

An examination of the driver’s work schedule, sleep times and cell phone use revealed that his opportunity for sleep in the 72 hours prior to the crash was limited, the safety board said in a release.

The board said another factor contributing to the accident was the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s lack of adequate oversight of North Carolina-based Sky Express, “which allowed the company to continue operations despite known safety issues.”

“Protecting the traveling public by strengthening bus and truck safety is FMCSA’s number one priority,” the federal organization whose primary mission is to prevent commercial motor-vehicle-related fatalities, said in a statement sent to CNN. “FMCSA closed the loophole that allowed 10-day extensions for passenger bus companies undergoing safety compliance reviews. It is also why our agency shut down 54 unsafe bus companies in 2011.” CNN, 31 July 2012.

The driver was charged with reckless driving and four counts of involuntary manslaughter.