When parents send their children to school, especially on the school bus, they expect them to be safe. Indeed, most school systems encourage parents to send their children on the school bus, as a safe and reliable method of transportation. Unfortunately, as any personal injury lawyer can attest to, school bus accidents do occur. An unexpected story out of Boston reminds us that negligence can be unpredictable.
School bus driver arrested for DUI
A school bus driver in Boston was arrested after crashing into a utility pole while the school bus was loaded with students. According to police, the bus driver admitted to being under the influence of Nyquil. He allegedly took the medication earlier in the day while he was driving his bus route. His blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit.
At the time of the accident, there were 11 students on the bus. When the school bus struck the utility pole it was knocked down and landed on an SUV crushing it. Fortunately, the SUV was unoccupied at the time. When police arrived on the scene of the accident, the bus driver was unable to walk down the bus steps, requiring the officers to board the bus.
A personal injury lawyer knows the stricter DUI standards for commercial vehicle operators
While the blood alcohol limit for driving a private vehicle is .08 grams of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood, a driver with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) such as a school bus must maintain a blood alcohol level of .04. A stricter standard is applied to drivers of commercial vehicles, for several reasons. For one, commercial vehicles are often larger and heavier, which requires more time to come to a complete stop.
For that reason, an operator of a large commercial vehicle, such as a school bus, need to be able to react quicker in order to avoid dangerous situations on the roadway. Alcohol obviously slows down reaction times, making it virtually impossible to safely drive a commercial motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving under the influence also increases the likelihood of other types of accidents occurring, such jack-knifing or rollover accidents.
Beer or cough medicine – it’s still a DUI
When people hear “DUI,” they assume that refers only to alcohol beverages. However, in nearly all states, driving under the influence also means under the influence of drugs. That would include cough medicine, Nyquil or any other medication that causes drowsiness or affects the nervous system in a way that makes operating a motor vehicle dangerous.
Beware the alcohol content in Nyquil
Many people do not realize that there are over-the-counter medications that include ethanol which is chemically identical to the alcohol in vodka, for instance. That ethanol will register in a breath alcohol or blood test, just the same as the alcohol in vodka. Consuming ethanol causes the same drowsiness and loss of coordination as alcoholic beverages. In fact, the effects of cold medicine like Nyquil may be worsened because of the added effects of decongestants and other drugs also contained in cold medicine.
Negligence claims for medicating and driving
The consequences of driving while under the influence of certain medications, including the over-the-counter variety, involve more than criminal charges for drunk driving. It can also lead to liability for negligence. Medication that may cause drowsiness or other effects must, by law, include a warning that the person taking it should not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking it. As a personal injury lawyer will tell you, anyone who decides to take the medicine, ignore the warning, and then drive on the roadway is being negligent. In 2013, there were more than 10,000 fatalities reported involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit. Those accidents accounted for 31% of all traffic fatalities that year. Put another way, that was one alcohol-impaired fatality every 52 minutes.
Negligence of other drivers is the greatest threat on the road
The unfortunate reality is, the greatest threat on the roadway is other drivers. Their negligence accounts for more accidents and deaths than any other factor. Intoxication is not the only cause of negligence leading to auto accidents. Driving while drowsy or fatigued, speeding and distracted driving (such as texting or eating), are also very common causes of accidents.
If you have questions regarding negligence and motor vehicle accidents or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (800) 364-8305.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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