Dallas, 09/10/2016 /SubmitPressRelease123/
1-800-Truck-Wreck accident lawyers have years of experience helping people recover from their injuries and obtaining the compensation they deserve.
In early August, a commercial charter bus was involved in a fatal accident as it traveled from Southern California to Sacramento.
The crash occurred at 3:35 a.m. as the bus, with 30 passengers on board, was headed north on Highway 99 at Liberty Avenue, which is between Atwater and Livingston.
Police said the bus veered off course and smashed into a sign pole, causing extensive damage to its right side.
Four people were killed in the accident, and another five passengers were transported to local hospitals, including Mario David Vasquez, the 57-year-old driver of the bus, who suffered major injuries.
The accident closed Highway 99 for 16 hours as fire crews attempted to rescue passengers still trapped on the bus.
Jennifer Rivera, 12, a passenger on the charter bus, poignantly recounted the panic and horror of those moments,
“I woke up and I was lying on the floor and I think the bus crashed into a post,” she said in Spanish. “The bus split open and that’s how I got out. My arm was scratched and it hurt a lot.”
Rivera was traveling from Sonora, Mexico to Washington with two of her uncles, but said that she couldn’t find them after the crash. She said she was on her way to Washington to live with her aunt, and to attend school there.
Inevitably, these types of accidents involving commercial vehicles raise questions about carrier safety standards.
The charter bus that was involved in the accident is owned by Autobuses Coordinados, which operates out of Southern California.
Federal records show that the company has been cited for 23 maintenance violations – including three for brake problems – since 2014, and that eight of the violations were serious enough that the government issued ‘out-of-service’ orders.
As recently as January 2015, the carrier was fined $3,200 for failure to ensure that the parts in their commercial vehicles were safe and operable.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) inspected the charter bus that was involved in the accident in April 2016, and found that the bus either lacked a brake-warning device or had a brake-warning device that was defective.
Two months prior to that inspection, the same charter bus was removed from service while in Oregon because the driver was operating the vehicle with a suspended license. It was unclear whether that driver was the same one who was driving when the accident occurred.
Recent Bus Accidents
Sadly, the crash in Merced County is only one of several major commercial bus accidents this year that resulted in fatalities and serious injuries.
San Jose, TX – In January, a Greyhound bus driven by 58-year-old Gary Bonslater and carrying 20 passengers, was involved in an accident near San Jose that killed two people who were ejected from the bus and left 18 others with injuries.
The accident occurred early in the morning on the northbound 101 Freeway near the State Route 85 interchange.
The Greyhound bus was about to merge onto the State Route 85 connector when it smashed into barrels at the bottom of the ramp, rolled over onto its side and skidded to a stop when it hit a concrete median wall.
Bonslater told authorities that he was fatigued, but insisted he did not fall asleep behind the wheel.
The bus, which originated in downtown Los Angeles, and made stops in Avenal, Gilroy, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, was on its way to San Jose when the accident occurred.
Laplace, LA – On August 28, a charter bus that was carrying a group of recovery workers on their way to Baton Rouge crashed on Interstate 10, killing two people and injuring another 41, including 24 passengers on the bus.
The accident occurred at about 6:40 a.m. when the driver, 37-year-old Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, a Honduran immigrant who is not in the U.S. legally, lost control and slammed into a fire engine that was blocking the left lane of the highway in response to an earlier accident.
The bus then swerved across several lanes, struck a Camry, and hit and killed St. John District Fire Chief, Spencer Chauvin, before it careened over the side of a guardrail into a body of water.
Rodriguez, who was charged with two counts of negligent homicide and one count of reckless driving, as well as driving without a license, suffered only minor injuries.
“It is a sad day in St. John the Baptist Parish, as we lost one of the bravest and most dedicated firefighters that I know,” said Parish President Natalie Robottom. “This was a horrific accident and one that is still very active.”
The Department of Homeland Security is now conducting background checks on the hired workers who were passengers in the bus, as it was discovered that they were also not in the U.S. legally.
AM Party Bus and Kristina’s Transportation LLC, both operating out of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, are listed as the bus owners, and police are investigating whether the carriers knew that Rodriguez was undocumented.
“A recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report found that buses and other commercial motor vehicles have a much higher risk of being involved in fatal accidents than other registered vehicles on highways across the country,” said Amy Witherite, co-founding partner at Eberstein & Witherite, LLP. “The truly sad part is that many of the factors that play critical roles in these deadly crashes are preventable.”
The NTSB report states that:
- 17% of commercial truck drivers exhibit risky driving behavior.
- There are more younger and inexperienced commercial truck drivers on the road who don’t know how to properly handle their vehicles in emergency situations.
- People over the age of 55 fall into a “higher risk” category, and there’s an increasingly large number of commercial drivers who fall into this age group.
Steps To Make Buses Safer
“In an attempt to lower the number of commercial bus accidents, the government passed the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act in July 2012,” Witherite added. “The law was enacted after a 2007 bus accident in Atlanta that killed five members of a college baseball team.”
The resulting investigation cited driver error and inadequate passenger safety equipment as major factors in the fatalities.
This legislation applies to new charter buses, and requires seat belts, harnesses, reinforced windows, crash-resistant bus roofs, flame-resistant seats, and improved driver training.
“While it’s a step in the right direction, it doesn’t bring back the lives of those lost, nor does it address the root problem of most commercial bus accidents, which is driver error,” Witherite concluded.
To further try and reduce the number of commercial bus accidents, the FMCSA recently launched a public safety campaign called “Our Roads, Our Responsibility,” which provides tips on how drivers of small vehicles can safely share the road with commercial buses and large trucks.
Some of the most practical tips include:
- Staying out of blinds spots around the front, back and side of buses and trucks
- Passing safely
- Avoiding all distractions such as mobile phone use, texting, and watching videos
- Practicing patience when driving around large trucks and buses
- Leaving enough distance when merging in front of a commercial vehicle
- Giving large vehicles enough space to make turns as they need a wider berth
How To Find Safe Commercial Drivers
The FMCSA has also created a set of guidelines to ensure the safety of travelers who hire commercial buses.
Before choosing a bus carrier for your next trip, you should:
- Check Registration and Insurance – Commercial bus carriers are required to possess a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number, registration from the FMCSA, insurance coverage of at least $5 million, and wheelchair accessibility.
- Check the Safety Rating – The FMCSA issues a ‘Satisfactory,’ ‘Conditional,’ or ‘Unsatisfactory’ safety rating to every commercial bus. A ‘Conditional’ rating indicates a higher safety risk, and an ‘Unsatisfactory’ rating indicates that the bus does not meet the minimum safety standards for operation. Before traveling on a motorcoach, ask the carrier to show you the most recent safety rating.
- Find a Safe Driver – Drivers must possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a passenger endorsement. This means they know the safety regulations involved when transporting passengers. Drivers must also possess a valid medical certificate that shows they have met the physical requirements for the job.
It’s also important that you ask the bus carrier whether drivers are allowed to text or use a mobile phone while driving, and how often drivers undergo drug and alcohol testing.
If you are planning on taking a bus trip across state lines, make sure the carrier observes the law, which states that interstate drivers cannot drive for more than 10 consecutive hours without taking a rest break of at least six hours.
Any trip you take that will exceed 10 consecutive hours of driving must include a backup driver or a rest period.
How A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Bus and truck accidents can cause serious injuries, and change a person’s quality of life. If you or someone you love live in Texas, and have been involved in an accident caused by a commercial truck, you should contact us immediately. Our truck accident lawyers have years of experience helping people recover from their injuries, and obtaining the compensation they deserve.
Call 1-800-Truck-Wreck for a free consultation – or fill out our online form – and someone will contact you right away.
Eberstein & Witherite, LLP
Email: [email protected]
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