|NTSB Official Outlines Probable Cause of Missouri School Bus Crash, Possible Crash Avoidance Options|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Monday, 08 November 2010 13:53|
While a final crash report is not expected until at least next year, an official from the National Transportation Safety Board told members of the National Association for State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services in Portland last week that it was inexplicable why a school bus activity trip driver failed to react to slowing traffic in a construction zone on Instate 44 in Missouri just prior to a fatal four-vehicle pile-up in August.
Dwight Foster, the deputy director of NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety, reviewed a fatal crash involving two school buses, a pick-up truck and a tractor-trailer outside St. Louis that resulted in two deaths and several serious injuries. Jessica R. Brinker, 15, was killed as she and other members of the St. James High School marching band were on their way to Six Flags St. Louis amusement park when their school bus failed to slow for traffic and rear-ended a 2010 GMC Sierra pick-up and then a 2007 Volvo bobtail. Brinker’s death occurred when a second school bus rear-ended the first, causing an unusual crash force.
The initial impact was the first school bus plowing into the rear of the pickup, essentially folding the vehicle in two. The school bus then over-rode the heavy-duty bobtail truck. The 19-year-old driver of the GMC Sierra was killed. Then, a second school bus following the first attempted to veer to the right, but the maneuver was too late. The second bus struck the first in the right-rear side. That second collision produced a rare kind of crash force as the second bus also struck the roof of the first bus, causing intrusion into the passenger compartment that killed Brinker. Thirty-four others students were also injured
Foster said it was "inexplicable" at this time why the driver of the first school bus in the caravan failed to react to the slowing traffic on I-44. But the result, he added, is nothing new. Nearly a year earlier also on I-44 but in northeastern Oklahoma, a big rig failed to break as it crested a hill and proceeded to slam into a line of stopped vehicles. Ten people were killed. Foster said the crash was likely caused by fatigue as the truck driver suffered from sleep apnea.
Like the Missouri school bus crash, Foster said the Oklahoma incident was another example of “heavy vehicle aggressivity.” The Oklahoma big rig was carrying no cargo and weighed about 40,000 pounds, similar to that of a school bus loaded with students.
Foster pointed to several types of technology that could keep similar crashes from occurring in the future, such as adaptive cruise control detects the speed of other vehicles sharing the roadway and automatically applies the brakes. While not required by the FMCSA, studies have shown that auto braking can reduce rear-end collisions by 21 percent, which in turn can prevent 4,700 crashes each year.
NTSB recommended collision avoidance technology for commercial vehicles in 2001, but at the time the technology was still being developed, Foster added. So NTSB issued a second recommendation for the technology in 2008 following a motorcoach-big rig crash in Osseo, Wis., three years earlier that killed five.
Foster said vehicle stability control and video event recorders are also proactive driver modification tools that can reduce fatalities and injuries and, thus, decrease insurance claims by 30 to 90 percent. Yet, he added, no technology has been proven to completely solve the problem of driver distraction, whether that be caused by cell phone usage, fatigue or anything else.
|Last Updated on Monday, 08 November 2010 14:15|