Fatal Bus Crash in Virginia Puts Driver Fatigue in the Limelight

Fatal Bus Crash in Virginia Puts Driver Fatigue in the Limelight

6/20/2011

 

Coffee, energy drinks or talking to his mobile phone were not enough to keep bus driver Kin Yiu Cheung awake after a long night. According to court documents, approximately an hour before the break of dawn, or almost 7 hours into his shift, Cheung dozed off while the bus he is driving, along with the 59 passengers onboard, sped northward on I-95 in Virginia on May 31.

A little while later, the vehicle veered off the highway. Authorities say that it was during this time that Cheung suddenly awoke and tried to turn the bus back on the road, hitting an embankment in the process, causing it to overturn. Four passengers died from the crash and several more were injured. Cheung remains in jail without bond. His attorneys are calling the wreck a “tragic accident.”

The 37-year-old Cheung, who lives in Flushing, N.Y., has been charged by prosecutors with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

However, sleep scientists, safety groups and labor leaders are saying that the roots of the unfortunate accident lie with the industry whose economic model usually result in putting drivers with too little rest on the road at hours when their bodies crave sleep.

According to Larry Hanley, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents Greyhound drivers as well as those from other bus companies, the consequence of such business model is a huge population of employees not getting enough sleep.

National Transportation Safety Board studies reveal that between 13% and 31% of commercial vehicle accidents are caused by driver fatigue.

The deadly crashes involving large passenger vehicles that travel between cities, such as the one that Cheung was driving, are increasingly focusing the limelight on driver fatigue.

WRITTEN BY:

blakeh@wellsdrew.com