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NTSB on deadly CA Fed-Ex-bus crash: “Lives could have been saved”

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 7th, 2014

Following the California semi-truck/motor coach accident, National Transportation Safety Board investigators bring bus passenger safety back to the forefront


As you’ve probably heard by now, there was a terrible semi-truck/bus accident that recently occurred in Northern California that left 10 people dead. The accident occurred after a FedEx truck sideswiped another vehicle, lost control, crossed the center median and crashed head-on with a bus filled with high school students and chaperones.

The crash was horrific, as both the semi-truck and the bus burst into flames. Dozens of bus passengers were able to escape through the bus windows — but not everyone escaped. When the flames were finally doused and the terror  over, five students, three adult chaperones and both the bus driver and the semi-truck driver were dead.

As federal investigators continue to piece together exactly what happened, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pointed out that had previous safety recommendations been observed, perhaps there would not have been so many lives lost:

“The worst thing for the NTSB is to show up, know that we’ve issued recommendations from a previous accident where lives have been lost, and find out (that) if those recommendations had been closed and enacted, lives could have been saved,” said NTSB member Mark Rosekind.

But what recommendations?

For starters, the NTSB, and other interested parties, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), have long advocated the inclusion of seatbelts in commercial buses. In fact, as recently as May 2013, the NHTSA was making a strong push for bus safety belts. Some buses actually are equipped with seat belts, but there is no mandate requiring their use, and no enforcement of their use at all.

Sadly, this warning has yet to be heeded. Sources indicate that Silverado Stages had a good safety record, so their buses actually were equipped with seat belts.

However, there is no federal regulation mandating their use.  And because the public is largely unaware of how important safety belts are in buses,  investigation in this tragic bus accident has revealed that few passengers were actually using the belts at the time of the crash.

One thought for the attorneys who are litigating both this and similar bus accident cases: Even if safety belts are not currently required by federal law in buses and coaches, that doesn’t mean not equipping these buses with safety belts is an excuse. Attorneys should explore the relative cost of seat belts, or cross-over mirrors (also not currently required) with the ability to avoid accidents and save lives.

Safety and accident prevention are always important themes for trial.  My fellow Truck Roundtable founder, attorney Steve Gursten, will be talking more about this on Friday of this week at the Ohio Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Seminar. He has been asked to give the keynote presentation, and will be talking about “Rules of the Road” and trial anchors in bus and truck accident cases.

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.