Fatal Oregon Bus Crash Brings Public Scrutiny To Commercial Drivers
A tragic bus accident on December 30, 2012, has brought nationwide attention not only to the Canadian company that operated the bus but also to the actions of commercial drivers across the company. That accident happened when a tour bus owned and operated by Mi Joo Tour & Travel hit an icy patch of Interstate 84 outside of Pendleton, Oregon, slid through a guardrail and rolled down an embankment. Nine people lost their lives in the crash, and nearly 40 more were injured.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – a division of the United States Department of Transportation – has completed a preliminary investigation into the fatal bus accident, and has since barred the company from operating in America until further notice.
Among other things, the FMCSA found that the vehicle could have been going too fast for the inclement weather conditions and that the driver had exceeded the maximum allowable driving time in the days before the accident.
Hours Of Service Violations?
One of the main issues that have led some injured passengers to file a lawsuit against Mi Joo Tours is the allegation that the driver of the crashed bus had driven a whopping 92 hours in the seven days prior to the accident. The 92-hour driving time is far above the federally mandated maximum driving time of 70 hours in a seven-day period.
These regulations, known as “hours of service” regulations are designed to keep drowsy drivers from getting behind the wheel of oversized, passenger-carrying vehicles and putting countless other motorists at risk. They are similar to restrictions placed on the drivers of semi-trucks and big rigs, and serve the same purpose: ensure that commercial vehicle drivers are only driving while they have adequately rested and can focus their whole attention on the road.
The FMCSA seems to think that so-called “black ice” (a slippery, transparent coating formed on roads when engine exhaust and the friction of vehicle tires temporarily heats precipitation on the surface of the road that quickly refreezes) was a factor in the accident, a theory bolstered by the weather conditions at the time. A spokesman for the company concurs with that conclusion, arguing that black ice is one of the main – if not the main – contributing factors to the accident, but any number of causes could have come together to cause the tragedy.
The possibility remains open that the driver was distracted by radio chatter, electronic devices or passenger conversations, but nothing has been found to support that theory at this time. The investigation by federal and state transportation officials could continue for some time, as could the suspension of the company’s American operations.
If you or a loved one was injured in the above accident – or any other bus or commercial vehicle crash – you need to take steps to both ensure proper treatment of your injuries and protect your legal rights.
Contact an experienced commercial vehicle accident attorney in your area for more information about possible legal avenues you could explore that would allow you to do both.