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NTSB says driver fatigue was a factor in deadly bus accident

Many migrants often work long hours harvesting crops across America. The work they do is essential to American commerce, but, sometimes, this work comes at a price in the form of driver fatigue. Unfortunately, although there are regulations limiting how many hours a common carrier can work before they must rest, these regulations aren't always followed, leading to disaster.

Back in July 2016, four people perished in a fiery collision involving a bus carrying migrant farmworkers and a truck in Florida. The National Transportation Safety Board has recently determined that the bus driver was at fault for the crash. The bus driver was tired after a day of harvesting corn when he ran through a blinking red light at an intersection and struck the truck. Three people in the bus died in the crash, and 29 other people on the bus, along with the driver of the bus and a person staying in the sleeper berth of the truck were injured. The person driving the truck also died in the crash. The bus driver claimed he had only slept 4.5 hours before the collision occurred.

The NTSB also determined that the bus company did not apply the proper level of safety management with regard to the bus driver. In fact, the NTSB determined that the lack of management went all the way to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and even the Department of Labor.

The NTSB stated that there were holes in the "safety net" that failed to protect the transportation of farmworkers. For example, the rumble strip on State Road 363, where the accident occurred, had been removed several months earlier when the road was being repaved and had not been replaced until after the collision occurred. Moreover, the bus company's federal certificate was removed after the crash, when it was determined that the company committed 21 safety violations. However, the NTSB determined that this action by the government came "too little, too late."

Unfortunately, crashes such as these demonstrate that driver fatigue is a real issue for motorists in Florida and nationwide. These accidents can cause serious injuries or even fatalities, particularly when the crashes involve vehicles carrying many people, such as buses. Bus companies need to ensure their drivers are following safety regulations. In the end, if a bus accident is caused by driver fatigue, it is important to hold both the bus driver and the bus company liable for their actions.

Source: USA Today, "NTSB: Florida crash reveals issues in transport of farmworkers; fatigue a factor," Bart Jansen, Nov. 28, 2017

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