Distracted Driving and Bus Accidents: A Deadly Combination
Bus accidents can be fatal and catastrophic. And in many cases, they are preventable. Especially when the accident is caused by distracted driving.
On March 31, a pick-up truck crossed the center line of a two-lane road and collided with a church minibus on a rural Texas road. Thirteen people died during the accident. According to Associated Press, the passengers were members of The First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas. The bus was returning from a three-day retreat at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey- about nine miles away from where the crash occurred.
A witness told the Associated Press that the driver of the pick-up admitted that he was texting when the accident occurred. Jody Kuchler stated that he saw the truck driving erratically across the road. “He kept going off the road and into oncoming traffic and he just kept doing that.” Kuchler and his girlfriend traveled behind the pick-up for at least 15 minutes before witnessing the deadly crash. He checked on both the bus and the pick-up after the accident. That was when the driver, later identified as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was texting.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety has yet to comment on whether distracted driving may have played a role in the accident, Fox News reported. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, Jennifer Morrison advised that distracted driving will be among the issues investigated.
Unfortunately, if investigators determine that distracted driving played a role in the fatal crash, this would not be the first time bus passengers were killed because of distracted or impaired driving.
During the summer of 2016, Pennsylvania bus accident lawyer Jon Ostroff achieved a $5.05 million verdict on behalf of four passengers injured during a 2013 Greyhound bus crash. Forty-five passengers were hurt in the crash, including 37-year-old Son Thi Thanh Hoang was fatally injured when she was ejected from the bus.
Drowsy driving was the cause of the Greyhound crash. The fatigued driver fell asleep at the wheel and collided with a tractor-trailer on PA Interstate 80, according to The National Trial Lawyers. The Philadelphia jury ruled that she acted negligently and with reckless disregard of the lives of the passengers.
Greyhound was also found negligent for failing to enforce driver safety rules. “Greyhound must update and enforce its driver safety rules and fatigue management policies or these preventable, catastrophic, fatigue-related crashes will continue.”
Three Greyhound bus accidents caused by a driver that passed out or fell asleep behind occurred in 2013 prior to the October crash.
Unlike the Greyhound crash, the driver of the Texas bus was not at fault during the March crash. But like the Greyhound accident, the Texas collision was catastrophic and preventable. As Jon said this type of crash, whether it be involving impairment by distraction or fatigue will continue if safety rules are not updated and enforced. Per Associated Press, Texas does not have a ban on texting while driving. A ban was approved in 2011, but it was vetoed. Legislatures described the ban as government micromanagement and suggested that educating drivers was the key to deterrence.
Pennsylvania enacted a ban on texting-while-driving in March 2012. Two years later, Pennsylvania auto accident fatalities fell to record low, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, reported. However, that same year, more than 3,100 people were killed and 431,000 were injured nationwide because of distracted driving. It’s more than a problem. It’s an epidemic.
As the Texas legislatures suggested it is important to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted and drowsy driving. Texting bans and fear of punishment may serve as a deterring but it is important for drivers to understand the true dangers- with consequences for severe than paying a fine. The potential loss of life is even greater when distracted driving results in bus accidents or train accidents. To learn more about preventing distracted driving, visit the National Safety Council and Enddd.org.