Traveling by tour bus is a great way for visitors to experience new lands. Any bus tour company operating the US must comply with certain safety regulations. These regulations include a maximum number of hours the bus driver can operate a bus in an eight day period. There also industry safety standards governing when a bus driver should reduce speed for or even pull based on slippery road conditions. Last month, the driver of a Oregon tour bus company had allegedly been driving at least 90 hours over eight days when, while on an icy road, he ran through a guard rail and plunged down 200 feet down an embank. As a result of bus accident, nine passengers were killed and many others were seriously injured.
According to a recently filed personal injury lawsuit, the tour bus driver for Mi Joo Tour & Travel had been traveling at least 90 hours by the eighth day of a nine day bus tour. The tour began in Vancouver, Canada, and went through various states including Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho. During the early morning hours of December 30, 2012, the bus left a hotel in Boise. While in Eastern Oregon, after traveling over 200 hours in just over three hours, the bus rammed through a guard rail and plummeted over 200 feet down an embankment. The lawsuit alleges there were patches of snow and ice on the road at the time of the collision. A few hours before the crash, sand had been put down on the icy road which suggests the road conditions had been bad for hours before the crash.
It is unclear at this point the precise speed the bus was traveling just before the crash. However, the Commercial Driver's License Study guide, which commercial truck drivers must study before taking their test, requires trucks to reduce their speed by a 1/3 for wet roads. On icy roads, commercial truck drivers should pull over at the nearest exit because icy roads are simply too dangerous for large commercial vehicles. Thus, if the bus driver knew or should have known the road was icy, he should not have been driving on the road to begin with.
Tour buses cannot stop as quickly as cars or other small vehicles. Nor can buses turn as easily as small vehicles. Slippery roads making these vehicles even more dangerous to operate and, therefore, require even greater caution. If a tour bus driver chooses to operate their vehicle on icy roads and, in the process, loses control due to road conditions, the bus driver and his or her company should be held fully responsible for any harm they cause. The same is true if the bus driver's lack of rest contributed to a crash. Thus far, the police investigating the crash have not stated whether road conditions or driver fatigue caused or contributed to the crash. However, if the road was covered with ice and/ or snow, then adverse road conditions were almost certainly a factor in the crash unless the driver simply fell asleep.
Seattle Press, 2 Survivors Of Oregon Bus Crash File Lawsuit, January 7, 2012.