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NTSB safety recommendations for truck intersection accidents – after deadly school bus crash with truck

Written by Steve Gursten Posted September 5th, 2013

National Transportation Safety Board Report pushes new “connected vehicle technology” that helps commercial vehicles detect other vehicles in intersections

Connected vehicle technology

In late July, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a report  stemming from its investigation of a February 2012 school bus accident with a commercial truck that left a child dead and nine others injured.  The report advanced some very interesting recommendations on safety regarding intersections and commercial motor vehicles, which will be further discussed.

In the early morning of February 16, 2012, a school bus in Chesterfield, New Jersey, was carrying 25 students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade to a local elementary school. An overloaded dump truck was traveling east approaching an intersection, and collided with the northbound bus passing through the same intersection.

Ten of the passengers were injured, and tragically, one of the schoolchildren was killed. Sadder still, is the fact that this bus/truck crash was preventable. The NTSB concluded, among other things, that:

  • The driver of the truck was driving in excess of the posted speed limit before braking, and this higher speed contributed to the severity of the crash.
  • The school bus driver did not effectively scan the intersection for oncoming traffic and failed to observe the approaching truck prior to impact.
  • The school bus driver was fatigued due to acute sleep loss, chronic sleep debt, and poor sleep quality associated with his medical conditions and alcohol use, and the sedative side effects from his prescription medications.
  • The school bus driver’s medical examiner did not adequately examine him, but if he had, the driver would have been disqualified.
  • The combination of the truck’s defective brakes and overloaded condition reduced its overall braking efficiency, thereby contributing to the severity of the crash.

In this preventable crash, both the truck driver and the bus driver cut corners on safety, ultimately costing an innocent life.

But there’s a silver lining. Following its investigation, the NTSB made several recommendations to improve safety moving forward. Among them is a new and revolutionary recommendation, calling for “connected vehicle technology.”

Connected vehicle technology essentially allows a transport vehicle to determine if another large vehicle or semi-truck is driving into an intersection. The technology then notifies the commercial driver that another vehicle is approaching, drawing his or her attention to the potentially dangerous situation.

The recommendation calls for trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or more, to be equipped with the technology. The devices would be installed in newly manufactured transport vehicles. But exiting vehicles do not have to be fitted with the devices, at least, not now as the recommendation stands.

The report acknowledges that the technology must still be perfected and standardized, but it calls for both development and implementation as part of the recommendation.

Technology like this could actually prevent accidents.  Imagine if this technology had been in place before this school bus/truck crash in New Jersey.  Perhaps the bus driver or the trucker, or both, would have been notified and paid better attention  – despite all of their other violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

 – Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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.
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