Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board.
I am Robert Sumwalt, and I’m honored to serve as the Chairman of the NTSB. Joining us are my colleagues on the Board: Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg, Member Earl Weener, Member Bella Dinh-Zarr, and Member Jennifer Homendy.
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider the fatal collision of a pickup truck with a medium-size bus near Concan, Texas, on March 29, 2017.
The crash killed 13 people on board the medium-size bus, including the bus driver. One passenger survived, with serious injuries. The pickup truck driver also survived.
On behalf of the NTSB and my fellow Board Members, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the families, friends, and community members of those who died in this crash and our thoughts remain with those still recovering and their families.
Today, among other things, we will discuss a witness cell phone video that many of you have seen by now, showing the truck driver’s erratic driving: He crossed the centerline 19 times and drove onto the right shoulder over 35 times in less than 15 minutes leading up to the crash.
We will discuss evidence of the driver’s drug impairment, including marijuana and prescription medication found in the pickup truck, and positive toxicological results for THC and impairing medication.
This 20-year-old driver’s short but troubled pre-crash driving history included at least 8 encounters with police officers in the 4 years leading to the crash. Equally concerning is the evidence found by investigators showing that the driver was immersed in a culture of recreational drug use.
But we aren’t here to punish one driver. We are here to improve safety. The question is how to prevent drivers from operating vehicles while impaired, and how to protect road users from drivers who make such choices in the future. Critically, how do we do it before a crash?
“End Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment in transportation” is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. “Other drug impairment” is especially on the rise.
Today’s report contains a lot of data on this trend, but these startling statistics stand out:
In 2006, drugs were found in 30 percent of fatally injured drivers with valid drug test results.
In 2009, it was 37 percent.
In 2015, it was 46 percent.
We need more and better data to determine what initiatives can most effectively fight the upward trend in drug-impaired driving. But there is no question that the trend is there, and going the wrong direction.
The driver in this crash made terrible choices with tragic consequences.
But the rising tide of drugged driving did not begin with this driver, and, unfortunately, it will not end with him.
So, today, we’ll look at how decision makers at all levels are responding to the drugged driving challenge.
And, last but not least, we will discuss the need for lap/shoulder belts on medium-size buses. Bus and seat manufacturers need to move toward installing lap/shoulder belt restraint systems as standard equipment in all seating positions.
Today, the NTSB staff will briefly present the most pertinent facts and analysis found in the draft report. Our public docket, available at www.ntsb.gov, contains over 800 pages of additional information, including photos, interviews, and inspection records.
Staff has pursued all avenues in proposing findings, a probable cause, and recommendations to the Board. We on the Board will question staff to ensure that the report, as adopted, truly provides the best opportunity to enhance safety.
Now, Managing Director Dennis Jones, if you would kindly introduce the staff.