A tour bus crashed into a sign pole on Highway 99 in Merced County, according to KCRA news. The sign pole split the bus down the middle, injuring all passengers except for four. The bus contained over 30 passengers, all of Mexican ancestry. Tragically, critical injury befell fifteen passengers, while twelve suffered only minor injuries. KCRA reports that four people, not five as previously reported, were killed. The driver, Mario David Vasquez, suffered major injuries. No brake marks were found at the scene of the crash, suggesting that the bus was moving at full-speed when it hit the pole. Sheriff Vern Warnke of Merced County reported to the Associated Press that many of those injured lost their limbs, and that those assisting on the scene carried away “bags of body parts” of those who survived.
Vasquez’s relatives reported that Vasquez had been mourning the death of his spouse and hadn’t been sleeping well as a result. They insist, however, that he wouldn’t have driven if he was too tired. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and California Highway Patrol (CHP) investigators arrived to investigate but state they will not determine the cause of the crash on scene. The NTSB expects the investigation to take approximately one week.
Tired Driving Statistics
According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), 60% of adult drivers, or about 168 million people, admitted to driving while drowsy in the preceding year. More than one-third admitted to actually falling asleep at the wheel. Four percent stated that they had been involved in an accident or near-accident as a result of drowsiness.
Estimates by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Association) indicate conservatively that 100,000 crashes reported by the police directly result from driver fatigue. Young men are the most at-risk group for fatigue-related crashes, with males between the ages of 18 and 29 being most likely to drive while drowsy when compared to other age groups. Adults with children are another at-risk group, as are shift workers. The risk of an individual crashing, predictably, inversely correlates with the amount of sleep the individual had the night before.
Legal Rights of Those Injured
Bus drivers owe a heightened duty of care while driving due to the inherent danger of operating a large vehicle like a bus. If a driver breaches this duty (by driving while tired, for example), and this breach results in harm, the driver may be found liable for damages. Those harmed can recover a dollar amount that the court deems to be sufficient compensation for both the economic and non-economic harm caused.