National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
The National Transportation Safety Board today determined that the probable cause of a deadly school bus and truck crash in New Jersey was the bus driver’s failure to observe the truck as it was approaching the intersection. Contributing to the bus driver’s reduced vigilance were cognitive decrements due to acute sleep loss, poor sleep quality and sedative side effects from his use of prescription medications. The NTSB found that the truck, which struck the school bus, was traveling in excess of the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit and was being operated in an overweight condition. The truck also had defective brakes and a lift-axle brake system that was improperly installed by the truck’s final stage manufacturer. These conditions contributed to the severity of the crash.
The crash occurred on February 16, 2012, near Chesterfield, New Jersey, when a 2012 school bus transporting 25 students was traveling northbound on Burlington County Road 660 through an intersection. At the same time, a Mack roll-off truck with a fully loaded dump container was approaching the same intersection as it was traveling east on BCR 528. As the school bus proceeded across the intersection, the truck collided with the left rear of the bus. The bus rotated and struck a traffic beacon support pole. The crash killed one student on the school bus. Five students were seriously injured, 10 students and the bus driver sustained minor injuries, and nine students were uninjured. The truck driver was not injured.
"School buses are by far the safest way to transport children to school," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The 26 million students across the United States who ride buses to school are safer than when they are driven by adults and are far safer than when driven by a teenager."
Investigators determined that the severity of passenger injuries on the school bus were exacerbated by the nonuse or misuse of the bus passenger lap belts; the lack of protection from interior sidewalls, sidewall components and seat frames; and the high lateral and rotational forces in the back portion of the bus. The investigation found that properly worn passenger lap belts were beneficial in reducing fatalities and injuries.
The NTSB reviewed national statistics regarding intersection crashes and noted that in 2011 alone, 6,817 fatal crashes occurred at intersections, resulting in 7,265 fatalities. "Connected vehicle technology – where vehicles communicate with other vehicles – holds great promise to reduce the tremendous death toll resulting from intersection crashes," said Chairman Hersman.
As a result of this accident investigation, the NTSB issued safety recommendations to the:
The NTSB also reiterates four recommendations to the FMCSA and three recommendations to the NHTSA.
The safety recommendations address the medical certification of commercial drivers, school bus occupant protection, seat belt education, commercial truck operation and maintenance, and crash-avoidance technologies.
To view the summary of this accident including findings, probable cause and recommendations, click on the following link: www.ntsb.gov/news/events/2013/chesterfield_nj/presentations.html
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.