Common Causes of Bus Accidents: Driving Over Hours of Service

Recent studies have concluded that a driver who is drowsy or sleepy is as dangerous as a driver who has consumed alcohol or other impairing substances. Most are aware (and some have unfortunately experienced) the damage and devastation that a drunk driver can cause – imagine what harm a drowsy bus driver can do at the helm of a multi-ton commercial bus. What is especially terrifying about a drowsy bus driver is that he or she is liable to crash late at night with little or no warning to the passengers and there is little that can be done to prevent these tragedies.

A bus driver who continues to drive knowing that he or she has exceeded the number of hours he or she can or should drive places him- or herself at risk, as well as jeopardizes the lives of the passengers on the bus. This act of carelessness or negligence can subject both the bus driver personally and the bus company to legal liability. A knowledgeable bus crash attorney will know how to conduct a proper investigation to determine whether the driver or the company (or both) are at fault.

How Many Hours Can a Bus Driver Operate a Bus?

The number of hours a commercial bus driver can operate his or her bus in a 24-hour period is governed by Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. Currently, a bus driver can only be “on duty” for 15 hours per day and can only be behind the wheel of a bus driving for 10 hours of those 15 hours. After that, the bus driver must rest the remainder of the 24-hour period. For example, a bus driver who begins driving at 6:00 a.m. may be considered “on duty” until 9:00 p.m., but he or she must stop driving after 4:00 p.m. He or she may resume driving at 6:00 a.m. the following day.

Why Would a Bus Driver Continue Driving When Drowsy?

There are any number of reasons why a drowsy bus driver may continue driving. Investigating and determining the precise reason why is important in deciding whether the bus company itself can be held responsible for the crash:

  • The bus driver may be unaware of how drowsy he or she actually is;
  • The bus driver may be required by company policy to drive 10 hours per day (or any other number of hours per day) regardless of whether he or she is drowsy;
  • The bus company may encourage or coerce its drivers to continue driving even if they are drowsy or to drive in excess of the DOT limitation;
  • The bus driver may get stuck in traffic or delayed and feel he or she should “be farther” before stopping for the day.

A bus company that either encourages its drivers to drive when drowsy or exceed DOT limitations (by providing bonuses or incentives to drivers, or not taking adverse employment actions against them) or that fails to train and monitor its drivers to ensure they follow DOT regulations may be held responsible for your compensation in addition to the driver.

Proving a Bus Driver was Drowsy

Proving a bus driver was drowsy is not an easy task. Most drowsy bus drivers crash at a time when passengers are asleep and are therefore unaware of signs the driver is becoming tired. Witness testimony of other drivers who saw the bus swerve or drive erratically before the crash can be helpful as well as the bus driver’s own logbook. We at Zinda Law Group are familiar with the types of evidence you need to prove your case and how to preserve these important documents, evidence, and testimony. Contact us after a bus accident caused by a drowsy driver by calling (800) 863-5312 for your free initial consultation.