Fatal Multivehicle Crash Highlights Need for Action on NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements


WASHINGTON (June 30, 2020) ― A fatal seven-vehicle crash on an Illinois highway involved three of the 10 issues on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, the NTSB detailed in a report issued Tuesday.

A commercial truck-tractor and semitrailer traveling on Interstate 290 in Elmhurst, Illinois, on March 1, 2018, struck an automobile that had slowed due to traffic congestion.  The rear-end collision initiated a chain of crashes involving two other large trucks and three more cars, killing one person and injuring five more.

Investigators identified three primary safety issues in the crash: medical fitness for duty, fatigue, and the lack of a collision avoidance system, all of which are on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List.

“This crash tragically highlights the urgent need to implement the safety recommendations associated with our Most Wanted List,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “Had our safety recommendations in these areas been implemented, this crash may well have been prevented.”

Images, taken on the day of the crash, show six of the seven vehicles involved in the March 1, 2018, Elmhurst, IL, collision. 

(These images, taken on the day of the crash, show six of the seven vehicles involved in the March 1, 2018, Elmhurst, Illinois, multivehicle collision. The image on the left shows the crash site looking east; the image on the right shows the site looking west. Source: WFLD-TV)


Investigators determined the driver of the commercial truck failed to slow down because he was likely fatigued due to an untreated sleep disorder related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  The NTSB said the lack of a robust medical certification evaluation process to identify and screen commercial drivers at high risk for OSA contributed to the crash.

The NTSB made a recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2009 to implement a program to identify and treat commercial drivers with OSA.  That recommendation, and other OSA-related recommendations, remain on the Most Wanted List.

Following its 2015 publication of a special investigation report on forward collision avoidance systems, the NTSB recommended those systems be standardized and installed in all new passenger and commercial vehicles. These recommendations also remain on the Most Wanted List.

Fatigue, including fatigue stemming from sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, is a long-standing crash risk and is why reducing fatigue-related accidents is an issue area on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. 

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List outlines 10 issue areas that serve as the agency’s road map for safety recommendations ripe for action, and that if implemented have the potential to prevent accidents and save lives.

“With our Most Wanted List, the NTSB has pointed the way to safer roads, rails, seas, and skies,” said Sumwalt.  “But to make that vision a reality, the recipients of our safety recommendations need to implement them.”

The 14-page accident report is available here: https://go.usa.gov/xwtGh

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List is available here: https://go.usa.gov/xwHKJ

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).