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On Friday, March 26, 2010, about 5:14 a.m. central daylight time, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a 1999 Freightliner truck-tractor in combination with a 1998 Strick Corporation 53-foot-long van semitrailer, owned by the motor carrier Hester, Inc., and being driven by a 45-year-old male, was traveling south on Interstate 65 (I-65) near milepost 61.5. The truck departed the left lane of southbound I-65 at a shallow angle and entered the 60-foot-wide depressed earthen median between the southbound and northbound roadways. The truck traveled across the median and struck and overrode the high-tension, four-cable, alternating-post median barrier adjacent to the left shoulder of northbound I-65. It then crossed the left shoulder and entered the travel lanes of northbound I-65. At that time, a 2000 Dodge 15-passenger van, driven by a 41-year-old male and occupied by 11 passengers, was traveling northbound in the left lane. As the truck crossed in front of the van, its tractor was struck by the van. The van rotated clockwise and became engaged with the truck’s trailer; the two vehicles continued across both travel lanes and the right shoulder of northbound I-65. As the truck and van traveled across the right shoulder, the van separated from the truck, struck the cut rock wall beyond the shoulder, and rebounded back into the travel lanes, coming to rest in the left lane of northbound I-65, facing south. The truck’s tractor struck the cut rock wall, and the vehicle rolled onto its right side. As the truck came to rest across both northbound lanes, a fire ensued that destroyed the tractor and the sides and roof of the semitrailer. As a result of the accident and subsequent truck fire, the truck driver, the van driver, and nine van passengers died. Two child passengers in the van, who were using child restraints, sustained minor injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the probable cause of this accident was the truck driver’s failure to maintain control of the truck-tractor combination vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cellular telephone. Contributing to the severity of the accident were a median barrier that was not designed to safely contain or redirect the heavy vehicle and the lack of adequate guidance to the states in the form of high-performance median barrier warrants. One issue that the NTSB identified during its investigation was the need to provide objective warrants, rather than general guidelines, for the application of median barriers. This issue area has elements that concern the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Work with the Governors Highway Safety Association to add a standard definition for “cross-median crash” and a data element for cross-median crash accidents to the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Closed - Acceptable Action
Munfordville, KY, United States
Truck-Tractor Semitrailer Median Crossover Collision With 15-Passenger Van
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
NHTSA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Safety Recommendation History
The NTSB notes that the MMUCC expert panel added a “cross median” element to the third edition of the MMUCC when it was updated in 2008 and that, in 2010, NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS GES) were revised to be consistent with the MMUCC. We further note that the fourth edition of the MMUCC, published in late June 2012, includes a definition of the “cross median” element attribute consistent with the definition specified in FARS. The NTSB appreciates the MMUCC expert panel’s initiative to improve crash data collection and provide consistent guidance for the states on their crash report forms. Action to satisfy Safety Recommendation H-11-28 is now complete; accordingly, the recommendation is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION. Thank you for your cooperation.
The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC), a collaborative effort of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is a voluntary guideline that provides States with a recommended minimum set of data elements to use on their crash report forms. Determining the appropriateness of the data elements is the responsibility of the MMUCC Expert Panel, which consists of members from NHTSA, FMCSA, FHWA, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), State and local law enforcement and traffic records officials, and representatives from the automobile and insurance industries. As part of a larger initiative to improve crash avoidance research, the attribute "Cross Median" was added to the 3rd Edition of the MMUCC Guideline in 2008 to better identify crashes in which one or more vehicles crossed over a median and entered into oncoming lanes of traffic. Cross Median is one of the attributes for the MMUCC data element Sequence of Events. NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates System (NASS GES) became completely compliant with the MMUCC Guideline in 2010. Among the changes made to FARS and GES to make them compliant was the addition of "Cross Median" to the Sequence of Events data element. The 2010 FARS and GES data will be available to NTSB, other agencies and the public this fall. The 4th Edition of the MMUCC Guideline is currently being developed and is expected to be published in Summer of 2012. The 4th Edition will include a more complete glossary than previous editions, to include a definition for the element attribute "Cross Median." The current FARS definition for Cross Median, provided below, will potentially be used for the MMUCC Glossary. Cross Median is used when a vehicle departs its roadway and traverses the median and enters the shoulder or travel lanes on the opposite side of a divided highway.
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