WASHINGTON (April 7, 2020) —The National Transportation Safety Board released Tuesday the abstract of the final report for its investigation of the fatal, Oct. 30, 2018, Rochester, Indiana, pedestrian crash in which three students died when a pickup truck driver failed to stop for a school bus.
The NTSB determined the crash was caused by the pickup truck driver’s failure to stop for the school bus, despite the bus’s activated and clearly visible warning lights and stop arm, as well as a roadway warning sign for an upcoming school bus stop.
Contributing to the cause of the crash was the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation’s inadequate safety assessment of school bus routes, resulting in the prevalence of bus stops that required students to cross high-speed roadways to board a bus. Also, there was no clear policy established by Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation for school bus drivers to follow in determining when it was safe to signal students to cross a roadway to board a school bus, the NTSB report stated.
The fatal collision happened when the pickup truck failed to stop for the school bus, which was stopped on the northbound side of a two-lane road with a posted 55 mph speed limit. The school bus had stopped to pick up students who were waiting on the opposite side of the road. The school bus’s red warning lights were active, and its stop arm was extended. After being signaled by the school bus driver to cross, four students entered the roadway. The pickup truck, which was traveling south, struck the four children. A 9-year-old and two 6 year-old students died as a result of the crash. An 11 year old student suffered serious injuries. None of the occupants of the pickup truck or others waiting for the bus were injured.
(In this photo taken Oct. 30, 2018, the school bus involved in the fatal crash in Rochester, Indiana, is seen postcrash with lights in operation with stop arm extended. Photo by Indiana State Police)
The NTSB noted in the report the pickup truck driver did not respond to the activated warning lights and stop arm of the school bus or attempt to stop the vehicle until the students were in the roadway, for reasons that cannot be determined from the available evidence.
“When our school-aged children walk out the door to meet the school bus in the morning, parents have the right to know that everything possible is being done for their safety,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “This crash tells us that we can and should do more. While the school bus is still the safest way for students to travel to and from school, it is imperative that other drivers on the roads obey the law and stop for a school bus that is loading or unloading students,” said Sumwalt.
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued a total of 12 safety recommendations with two each issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, and the Indiana Department of Education; four to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, National Association for Pupil Transportation, and National School Transportation Association. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia; the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, and National Association of School Resource Officers each received one safety recommendation. The report also reiterated three previously issued recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The recommendations address safety issues including deficiencies in establishing safe school bus routes, failure of other drivers to stop or respond safely when approaching a stopped school bus and a need for greater use of technologies to prevent collisions and mitigate injuries.
An abstract of the final report, which includes the findings, probable cause, and all safety recommendations, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xvbcv. The full final report is expected to publish online in the next few weeks.
Links to the accident docket and related news releases for this investigation are available at https://go.usa.gov/xvrM6.
To report an incident/accident or if you are a public safety agency, please call 1-844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290 to speak to a Watch Officer at the NTSB Response Operations Center (ROC) in Washington, DC (24/7).