A speeding charter bus plowed into a New York City bus in Flushing, Queens, early Monday morning. It has since been revealed that the charter bus driver had lost his license after a drunk-driving arrest two years ago. Nevertheless, he was allowed back on the road by Dahlia Group, the charter bus company. The driver was killed, along with a pedestrian and a city bus passenger.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation is underway, so no final determination has been made about the cause of the accident. According to a report in the New York Times, however, the NTSB says charter bus was traveling at about 58 mph when it struck the back end of a Q20 bus.
As for the driver’s drunk driving arrest, the Times consulted Connecticut state police records. Those records show that the offense occurred in April 2015 and that the driver was accused of fleeing the scene of a three-vehicle accident he had caused on I-95.
At the time of that accident, the driver was employed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He was fired shortly afterward. He was convicted of the charges and received 18 months’ probation. According to the man’s lawyer at the time, there was no condition placed on his probation that said he could no longer drive commercially, and that his probation had expired in any case.
Somewhat frustratingly, a number of officials cited the ongoing investigation and refused to comment on whether the man should have been driving, considering his record. However, a spokesperson for the DMV did say that Dahlia Group had not notified the state that the man had been hired as a bus driver, which potentially violated state law.
U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-Queens) said there are “no standards for a driver or a company about how many infractions” can be on a driver’s record before their license is permanently revoked. She also said she was looking into what federal laws might help prevent such accidents in the future.
Meanwhile, the chair of the city council’s transportation committee said he plans to hold a hearing on strengthening the regulation of intercity charter buses. He said that the city seems to deal with the issue of previously suspended drivers being involved in bus accidents every three or four years.
Can anyone be held responsible in a case where the responsible driver is killed?
Although the person most likely responsible for the crash was killed in this case, it may be that the victims can hold Dahlia Group, the charter bus company, financially liable for the accident. The Times mentioned that they have a history of safety violations. Moreover, they may be guilty of negligent hiring in this situation.