Four people died and 54 were injured when a bus operated by Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., crashed Tuesday, May 31, on Interstate 95 about 30 miles north of Richmond, Va.
The accident occurred just before 5 o’clock in the morning. The bus driver, Kin Yiu Cheung, 37, was charged with reckless driving.
Virginia State Police Sgt. Thomas J. Molnar said the wreck was caused by driver fatigue.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shut down the bus company later Tuesday, citing multiple violations of federal safety regulations.
Driver fatigue and drowsy driving are a common threat on our highways. Studies show that accidents caused by drowsy driving tend to follow common trends.
This crash certainly fits the profile.
I’ve noted several common factors before in other sleep-related accidents. These wrecks are more likely:
- to involve a single vehicle running off the roadway
- to occur on higher-speed roadways
- to result in serious injuries
- to involve a young, male driver
- to involve a driver who is alone
Even the factor of driving alone applies, sort of. A bus driver is not usually engaged in interaction with passengers, as the driver of a personal vehicle would be.
In this accident, Bus 386 of the Sky Express fleet veered off the highway, hit an embankment, and flipped onto its roof.
More than a hundred rescue workers from nine agencies responded to the crash site. The 53 injured passengers were transported to 10 different hospitals. Their injuries ranged from minor to critical.
The driver was treated at the scene for minor injuries. He was the only person on the bus with a seat belt.
The bus trip originated in Charlotte. It was traveling overnight through Greensboro, North Carolina, state police said, and had made a stop in Raleigh en route to New York City.
The Sky Express company has had trouble with federal safety regulators in the past. Its buses were involved in four crashes during a two-year assessment period that ended this May, according to FMCSA records.
One of the crashes involved injuries, when the bus rear-ended a car on I-95 in Virginia last October and injured two people in the vehicle. The driver, Wen An Wu, 47, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was charged with reckless driving and following too close.
During its assessment period, Sky Express ranked worse than 99.7 percent of all bus companies in “Driver Fitness.” It received 24 driver-fitness violations.
Sky Express also received 46 violations in the “Driver Fatigue” category. Most were for failing to keep logbooks properly.
The company received 17 “Unsafe Driving” violations, most of them for speeding.
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the crash. A New York City Council member on Tuesday blamed the U.S. Department of Transportation for being “asleep at the switch” on bus safety, and the vice president of the Advocates for Highway Safety said legislation that would make the industry safer has been stalled in Congress.
This company’s poor performance in its safety evaluation and its high number of violations may be a clue a pattern of widespread negligence. This particular type of bus service, emphasizing very low fares and convenient routes, has been booming.
A ticket to ride on Sky Express Bus 386 from Charlotte to New York cost $30.
Tragically, this trip cost passengers a lot more.