The investigation, into the November 25th, 2007, bus crash that left four dead, has lead authorities to believe that Tornado Bus Co. Inc. driver Felix Badillo Tapia was under the influence of amphetamines at the time of the accident. While it is unclear whether or not the amphetamines were prescription, police believe Tapia had acquired the amphetamines in Mexico.
In addition to having found amphetamines in Tapia’s blood, police believe that Tapia had driven more than the 10 continuous hours that federal law permits for drivers. Records found on the bus showed that Tapia had in fact been driving for 17 straight hours when the accident occurred. As the police looked into Tapia’s driver logbooks, they noticed that the logs indicated that Tapia was off-duty on November 25th and had spent the day in the bus sleeper berth. However, a transcript from a police interview showed that when asked about the discrepancy in the logbook, Tapia “just shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know.”
In 1989 the Federal Highway Administration Office of Motor Vehicle Carriers initiated the Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study (DFAS). At that time the DFAS was the largest and most comprehensive over-the-road study ever conducted on driver fatigue and alertness in the United States. The outcome of the study showed that the strongest and most consistent factor influencing driver fatigue and alertness was the time of day. The study noted that peak drowsiness occurred during the 8 hours from late evening until dawn. However, one problem with the DFAS was that the design of the study did not provide researchers an opportunity to analyze nighttime driving coupled with continuous hours on the job. Information from that study would be useful since the Tornado Bus accident occurred at approximately 10:00 p.m. after the driver had been continuously driving for 17 hours. The police did not speculate on whether the amphetamines were to blame or if Tapia had just fallen asleep, but continuous hours driven and time of night likely played a role in the resulting accident.
The investigation into the crash will continue to be ongoing. Recent findings have lead police to declare it a criminal investigation. Police issued felony warrants Thursday for Tapia charging him with four counts of negligent homicide. The range of time one can be sentenced after being convicted of negligent homicide is from 3-10 years for each count. Tapia may be sentenced up to 40 years for the deaths following this accident.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.