Telematics Law May Be Introduced After Fatal Bus Crash

Telematics and driver behaviour monitoring could be enshrined in law following a fatal bus crash. Kailash Chander, now aged eighty, struck and killed Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox when he mistook his accelerator for the brake pedal. He had been driving for a subsidiary of Stagecoach, Midland Red South. Chander, who had been working for up to 7o hours a week, had received multiple warnings for his erratic driving and had missed a one-to-one safety meeting as bosses ‘needed’ him working. 

The accident, which took place in Coventry city centre back in October 2015, may have far-reaching legal ramifications. Law firm Stephensons believes that it’ll serve as a catalyst for making telematics and driver monitoring compulsory. This is because Chander had been sent no less than eight warning letters concerning his driving. These were prompted by telematics in his bus sending out alerts based on his poor performance. He was also involved in four previous incidents over a three year period. Seven months before the accident, Chander had also been referred to the company’s driving school and an anonymous instructor was sent to assess his ability behind the wheel. The instructor described the journey as ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘erratic’, claiming that Chander’s performance would have been insufficient to pass a practical test.

A solicitor from Stephensons, Paul Loughlin, has pointed out that whilst the Traffic Commissioner (which licenses buses) does not currently consider telematics as compulsory, this could now change. He said “as in this case, operators can be prosecuted for ignoring clear and indisputable issues relating to health and safety deficiencies highlighted by telematics systems. Regulatory action might also come before the Traffic Commissioner as a result.” A spokesman from Midland Red South said “none of us at our company will ever forget the terrible events of October 3, 2015. We are deeply sorry for the heartache of those affected, particularly the families of Rowan Fitzgerald and Dora Hancox.” He added “we have made it our continuing priority to work very closely with the authorities to help fully understand and learn detailed lessons from what has happened. The court hearing has been an important part of that process. We intend to comment further at the end of the case after the court has made its decision.”

Since the accident, Chander has been formally diagnosed with dementia. He has therefore been found to be unfit to stand trial. Stagecoach has pleaded guilty to two charges covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Sentencing will take place on November 26th and the company now faces the prospect of an unlimited fine. Whether the incident will serve as a catalyst for legal reform remains to be seen. However, in this case it would appear that it wasn’t a lack of telematics-supplied information that caused the accident, but rather the fact that it wasn’t taken seriously and acted upon. Peter Millichap, marketing director at Teletrac Navman, commented on the case saying “it’s what you do with the data that counts. It’s critical that operators proactively manage the telematics data they have at their disposal, from driver behaviour behind the wheel to monitoring driver hours, in order to identify potential issues and enforce best practice.”

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