Death crash coach driver charged by French.
Derek Thompson, the driver of the coach that crashed in France killing a teacher and injuring 24 other passengers when it went down a small embankment and turned on to its side, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter by the French Authorities.
At the court hearing in Chalons-en-Champagne Prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny said that witnesses saw the vehicle swerve repeatedly towards the verge. The tachograph indicated some unexplained variations in speed in the nine minutes before the accident. The driver denied falling asleep but acknowledged that it was possible that he did so.
Mr Thompson tested negative for alcohol or drugs and there was no evidence that he had worked excess hours.
Mr Thompson was released on bail and has returned to the UK.
One cannot help but feel very sorry for Mr Thompson. There are apparently no aggravating features to this case in terms of excess hour or drink or drugs. Mr Thompson may simply have been overcome by drowsiness.He appears to admit to this possibility. Anyone who has driven on a long stretch of motorway, especially at night will probably have had a similar experience the only difference being they managed to stop safely or somehow keep awake..
What should you do if this happens to you? Basically you should prepare for this sort of situation. A coffee or a drink of a caffeine based drink like Red Bull before you set off should do the trick. In any event what Mr Thompson should have done, if he felt at all drowsy, was to pull up at the nearest available stop and taken a break. Yes his passengers might not have thanked him particularly if they needed to connect with a ferry or catch a plane but this is what a professional driver needs to do. In the aviation industry it is termed 'airmanship'. A pilot needs to know to go around if his landing approach isn't spot on. In the same way drivers of buses, coaches and HGVs need to make safety critical decisions. Such drivers need the full backing and support of their employers. Anyone can succumb to drowsiness when driving. It is not necessarily the fault of the driver if this happens to him or her but ultimately the decisions made may make all the difference between stopping for 15 minutes to recover or facing a serious charge like manslaughter.