Passengers on a Greyhound bus traveling from Phoenix to Dallas had a terrifying ordeal when they observed the driver of their bus repeatedly falling asleep. The passengers confronted the driver and asked her to pull the vehicle over and call Greyhound for assistance, but the driver refused, leading to a standoff between the travelers and the driver.
The incident is the latest example of driver fatigue in the bus industry, which has long been linked to fatal bus crashes across the country. Despite its prevalence, far fewer studies have been done on driver fatigue in the bus industry than in the trucking industry, and safety advocates say this common cause of bus accidents must be addressed.
Passengers Shouted at the Driver to Stop the Bus After Swerving and Nodding Off
Part-way through the more than 20-hour trip from Phoenix, Arizona, to Dallas, Texas, on March 22, 2018, the 60-some passengers on board began to worry for their safety. The passengers had noticed that the bus was swerving slightly and that the driver appeared to fall asleep repeatedly; her head dropping forward toward the steering wheel and then jerking back up as she struggled to stay awake.
Passenger Philip Hurd told CBS News that the bus driver would use various techniques, such as poking herself with tweezers, to keep herself awake. The group repeatedly asked the fatigued Greyhound bus driver, who has not been publicly identified, to stop the bus, and told her she was falling asleep.
“I politely asked her four times to pull over,” Jasmine McLellan, another passenger, recounted to the Chicago Tribune.
Still, the driver ignored the passengers’ pleas and continued along in the journey, with the bus swerving.
“It got to the point where we had to raise our voice. ‘Pull over! We have children on this bus’!” McLellan told the Tribune.
The situation escalated, and a passenger started videotaping the events. In the video, a male passenger is shown standing behind the driver and shouting that she should have stopped the bus when the swerving started.
Video Shows Confrontation Between Fatigued Greyhound Bus Driver and Passenger
It is impossible to see the driver from the video’s angle, but passengers say she stood up to argue with the man, telling him he should get off the bus and that he was “doing too much.” In response, the passenger turns back to his fellow passengers and asks them who was doing too much. The passengers unanimously and loudly responded, “She is.”
Passengers were finally able to convince the driver to pull over as the bus traveled through New Mexico, after the bus had already nearly tipped over at least once, McLellan said in a separate interview with the Arizona Republic.
Border Patrol agents in the vicinity were summoned to assist the bus, with one agent riding on the bus itself and a vehicle accompanying it to a nearby gas station, where a new driver eventually replaced the fatigued Greyhound bus driver. Passengers involved in the ordeal arrived in Dallas seven hours behind schedule.
Greyhound Admits Bus Driver’s Hours of Service May Have Been a Problem
Recent years have seen Greyhound bus accidents linked to driver fatigue, and a response from the company on this incident seems to indicate there is a problem.
Hours of service dictate how long a driver can be behind the wheel of a vehicleand are supposed to be strictly enforced. Many in the industry say the rules are not followed, however, and that drivers may start shifts fatigued from working other non-driving jobs.
Lanesha Gipson, the Senior Communications Specialist with Greyhound, gave a statement regarding the incident on March 22, 2018:
We are currently looking into these allegations, as we take the issue of driver fatigue very seriously. Because safety is the cornerstone of our business, we take necessary precautions to prevent drivers from falling asleep while driving and we make it easy for drivers to be reassigned if they do feel fatigued or don’t feel confident that they can operate the bus safely for any reason. Our drivers are in regular contact with our dispatch office, and if they state they are feeling tired or fatigued, they are immediately removed from the schedule for at least 12 hours to allow them to get some rest. Once they feel alert and able to return to work, they may do so.
2016 CNN Investigation Found Greyhound Bent Their Own Rules
Greyhound has been accused of failing to prioritize passenger safety in the past. A 2016 investigation by CNN found that Greyhound did not hold its drivers to a Greyhound rule designed to avoid driving while fatigued. Instead, Greyhound allowed its drivers to determine their own fatigue level and decide whether they were a potential risk behind the wheel.
The investigation also referenced a fatal Greyhound crash in 2013 wherein passengers later said the driver fell asleep at the wheel and appeared exhausted. Another Greyhound bus crash on January 19, 2016, in San Jose involved a fatigued driver that passengers had spotted swerving. The driver admitted to investigators after the crash that he was tired at the time.
Fatigue-Related Bus Crashes Continue to Happen, ATU Calls It a “National Crisis”
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) spoke out on bus driver fatigue after the January 19, 2016, incident, and stressed the seriousness of the issue.
“In America, this is a national crisis. We have buses that are rolling off the roads and killing people,” ATU International President Larry Hanley told The Hill. “The bus industry is forcing drivers to work too many hours to make a living wage.”
The ATU also said that because bus companies do not have to pay drivers overtime, many bus drivers work multiple jobs to support themselves and their families and may already be tired when they step onto the bus and get behind the wheel.