The Virginia Court of Appeals has upheld a conviction of a Greenboro, North Carolina bus driver who reportedly fell asleep behind the wheel, killing four and injuring the other 53 passengers on board.
Our Greensboro bus accident lawyers know that while drowsy driving isn’t a crime for regularly-licensed drivers in either North Carolina or Virginia, commercial drivers are held to a higher federal standard for hours of service and adequate rest.
This case, Kin Yiu Cheung v. Commonwealth of Virginia, is a prime example of why adherence to these rules so important.
According to court records, the defendant had been convicted in circuit court on four counts of involuntary manslaughter after the passenger bus he was driving flipped over, resulting in death and serious injury to the passengers. He appealed that conviction, but the appellate court confirmed it.
In reviewing the background on the case, the appellate court reiterated the undisputed facts, as presented at trial:
The defendant departed from the Sky Express bus station in Greensboro around 10 p.m. on May 30, 2011 bound for New York City, with stops scheduled in Raleigh and Durham, as well as in Virginia and Maryland. Passengers were picked up at each of these locations.
Prior to the crash, which occurred at 5 a.m. on May 31, 2011, several passengers expressed concern about his behavior and driving. Some stated that he seemed confused when they boarded. One indicated he seemed confused about taking her ticket. Another said he had difficulty counting the passengers and the tickets.
He then made an unscheduled stop to consume a number of energy drinks. When other passengers got off to use the restroom, he reportedly began yelling at them for exiting the bus without permission. He began to leave with two women still in the restroom, and only stopped when other riders protested loudly.
At one point, passengers indicated he drove for about 30 minutes to an hour while talking on his cell phone. During that conversation, one of the passengers seated toward the front, who also spoke Mandarin, overheard the driver telling the person on the other line that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep.
At another stop, passengers saw the driver consuming four or five cans of energy drinks. One of the passengers, also a professional driver, asked the bus driver at this stop if he was alright. The driver assured him he was.
Yet the quality of his driving appeared to deteriorate. The bus swayed as it changed lanes. The bus wold speed up then slow down randomly, and was passed three times by the same tractor-trailer. At one point, passengers noted the driver was “hugging” the steering wheel, and several times saw him crossing highway lines. Cars even pulled off the road to avoid the bus.
This erratic driving continued for about an hour prior to the crash.
The wreck occurred when the driver, who was seen slumped to the right, made a hard left after drifting to the right and over the rumble strips. The bus flipped.
A motorist who stopped to help passengers out of the bus heard the driver repeatedly apologizing and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I fell asleep.”
No alcohol or drugs were found in his system.
There were indications that his log book numbers had been fudged, and that he had not actually received as much rest as required.
The defendant would later argue that his negligence did not constitute the degree of negligence necessary to prove an involuntary manslaughter charge. The appellate court disagreed.
While drowsy driving is not a problem limited to commercial drivers, they do tend to be more susceptible. That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued new hours-of-service rules, which went into effect in July of last year.
If you have been injured in a Greensboro bus accident, contact the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Convictions upheld after bus from Greensboro crashes in Va., Feb. 12, 2014, Staff Report, WXII-12
Kin Yiu Cheung v. Commonwealth of Virginia, Feb. 11, 2014, Court of Appeals of Virginia
More Blog Entries:
Staying Safe on North Carolina Bus Trips this Summer, July 5, 2013, Greensboro Bus Accident Lawyer Blog