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Fatigue and traffic flow blamed for bus deaths

Drivers of buses and other vehicles that transport passengers must be healthy and alert as a safety precaution. Otherwise, passengers and other motorists may become victims of deadly commercial vehicle accidents. In one case, the National Transportation Safety Board found that fatigued drivers were partially responsible for an accident that led to 13 fatalities and 31 injuries in a 2016 crash in California.

A motor coach was traveling on an interstate in Palm Springs during the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2016. Several vehicles were stopped by police on the highway because of utility work being performed.

A truck in the line of traffic did not begin moving even when traffic started. Two minutes later, a motor coach crashed into the truck. It encroached 13 feet into the trailer and pushed it forward 71 feet. The bus driver and 12 passengers were killed. The truck driver and 30 other passengers on the bus also suffered injuries.

The NTSB's investigation revealed problems that could impact Indiana and the rest of the country. First, it found that the bus driver did not take appropriate action to avoid the crash because he suffered from driver fatigue and did not expect stopped vehicles. He also had untreated diabetes, but a government-certified medical examiner did not diagnose this condition or refer the driver for testing even though he had a positive glucose test during his medical certification examination.

The NTSB also said that the truck driver did not resume driving after the vehicle was stopped because he likely fell asleep. It attributed this to his undiagnosed moderate-to-severe sleep apnea. He was not tested for this condition even though he had high risk factors. Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration developed guidelines for diagnosing this condition, the agency has not distributed it to medical examiners certified to perform commercial driver's examinations.

Additionally, California's Department of Transportation did not have an effective traffic management plan. This caused a dangerous situation where police could not detect the truck remaining idle or provide warning to the bus driver.

Until these types of problems, particularly fatigue and other health-related issues, are corrected, passengers and other motorists face the risks of serious injuries or even deaths in these accidents. An attorney can help these victims and their families seek compensation in a lawsuit.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board, "Traffic Management Plan, Sleep Apnea, Fatigue Cause Deadly 2016 California Motorcoach Crash," Accessed Nov. 11, 2017

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