According to news reports, the driver of an ambulance fell asleep at the wheel before veering off the road and crashing in Schenectady County in late May. The accident killed one of the passengers, a 64 year old man who had previously been hospitalized for high temperatures.
The company, Mohawk Ambulance, issued a statement indicating that the driver was 8 hours into a 12 hour shift, and that this was the first time something like this had happened in the 50 year existence of the company. Unfortunately, for the family of the victim, it did happen.
The story, appearing in the Albany Times Union, suggests that authorities are investigating potential criminal charges against the driver of the vehicle. Unfortunately, this will not bring back the victim.
In these deadly accidents, including those for distracted driving or tired driving, family members are often left with many more questions than answers. Investigation information can be difficult to come by, and companies often shut down or become defensive when something goes wrong. There is, of course, a reason for this - the family of the victim may very well be entitled to seek damages against the company for its own negligence or the negligence of the driver of the vehicle.
Among the many questions that the family may be asking is how did this happen? Did the driver have any history of fatigue? Was there a protocol in place to ensure that tired drivers were able to ask for and obtain relief? Had the company trained its drivers to be aware of the symptoms of fatigue and address them, rather than allowing themselves to fall asleep at the wheel?
Many of the questions may seem obvious, but the information can be difficult to come by. Often it takes the family members filing a legal proceeding to really determine what, if anything, the company could have done to prevent this accident from happening. As well as to prevent something like this from happening again in the future.
In our experience most transportation companies have, at a minimum, written policies in place that have guidelines for drivers. These often include limits on the amount of time spent driving as well as encouragement to "seek assistance" or "stop driving" if the driver gets tired. Often, however, companies overlook implementation of these polices in the name of more "efficient" service, and don't actually stop and look at how effective the policies are at preventing tired or distracted driving until it's too late.
We're not suggesting that Mohawk did anything wrong here. The answers to these questions may not be known for some time. What we do know is that a family has now been permanently changed, and if something could have been done to prevent that the family deserves to know.