By themselves, excessive speed, bad weather, inadequate vehicle maintenance and a driver’s failure to control a vehicle can be a safety nightmare but when combined they’re certain to lead to tragedy.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators found that combination is what led to a fatal bus crash in Southern California on Feb. 22, 2020.
3 passengers ejected during rollover
The 30-passenger bus was southbound in rainy weather on Interstate 15 near Pala Mesa when the driver lost control of the vehicle.
Three passengers were ejected from the bus as it left the roadway, rolled upside-down, back into an upright position and then back onto its roof before coming to a stop on an embankment.
The three passengers who were ejected died, 12 others were seriously injured, and the driver and five other passengers had minor injuries.
Too fast for road conditions
Information pulled from the engine control module showed the bus was going 73 to 75 mph before the driver lost control, which investigators determined was too fast for the wet road conditions.
Investigators also found the tread depths on two of the inside rear tires were lower than the minimum allowed by federal law which adversely affected the stability of the bus and contributed to the driver’s loss of control.
Tire marks on the road along with data from the bus’s onboard computer revealed the driver’s sustained braking and steering inputs also contributed to the bus’s failure to stay on the roadway.
And only one of the 20 passengers on the bus had used the available lap/shoulder belts. If those belts had been used, serious injuries and deaths may have been prevented.
California law requires motor carriers to inform passengers about the state’s mandatory seat belt law, but Executive Lines Inc., the owner of the bus, claimed it was unaware of this mandate.
Recommendations include updated tire requirements, policies on speed
The NTSB made several recommendations to the bus and transportation industries, the California Highway Patrol and the state of California, including:
- updating requirements for minimum tread depth for commercial vehicles, which haven’t been updated since 1974
- creating policies on speed and safe driving in inclement weather, and
- developing a program to increase awareness of the requirement for a pre-trip safety briefing and signage about California’s seat belt law and expand terminal inspection procedures to verify carriers’ adherence to that law.