Recent news reports across the state of Oregon have highlighted an important roadway safety issue that deserves to be addressed from a legal perspective. Last week, a series of articles sprung up across Portland area news channels concerning a local transport union’s ongoing contract bargaining dispute. At the time, activists and an organization called Oregonians for Safe Transit launched a campaign to raise awareness of bus driver overtime practices that were endangering passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road. According to a recent report issued by Oregonians for Safe Transit, Portland area bus drivers have been falling asleep on the job due to working as many as 22 hours in a 24-hour period.
Under federal law, which applies to interstate train operators but not to any bus or train operators working within the boundaries of one state, train operators are required to take seven-hour long breaks in between their shifts. This rule guarantees that train operators have enough time in between shifts to get the rest that they need in order to be coherent and to do their jobs safely. The Portland drivers who work for some Oregon bus companies are not allowed to work for more than 17 hours without a break, but neither are they guaranteed any specific period of time off between shifts and they are required to pick up extra shifts for colleagues who call in sick. These factors mean that Portland bus drivers can work two 17 hour long shifts back to back without a break, creating a clear hazard on the road.
The issue of driver fatigue in Oregon was also raised last week in by reporters in Eugene, who discussed national information about driver exhaustion and collision rates. According to a sited Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, a startling 1 out of 24 drivers self-reported having nodded off while driving in the previous month. This study found that between 15 percent and one-third of our nation’s fatal crashes result from tired drivers.
This CDC study highlights an issue that affects drivers throughout the United States and which is well-documented in Oregon. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s most recent Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Data publication, last year 8 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the state of Oregon involved exhausted drivers. More than 4,000 fatal car crashes on our state’s roadways in 2011 were attributed to fatigued drivers. This problem is an obvious one that needs continued public policy attention across our state, as is happening in Portland with the bus driver issue and in Eugene with recent news coverage of driver fatigue.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident and you believe that fatigue was a factor leading to your injuries, contact an experienced Oregon auto accident attorney right away. The lawyers at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC have extensive experience in auto accident and personal injury law and they would be happy to research your case and advocate for you in your auto accident injury claim.