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NTSB calls for improvements on buses and trucks

The National Transportation Safety Board called for improvements on motorcoach interiors and better data recorders on these vehicles and trucks following its investigation of a 2014 fatal truck motorcoach collision in Orland, California. These upgrades, if adopted, could improve passenger safety in New York and across the country.

The 2014 accident involved a FedEX Freight truck-tractor that crossed a 58-foot-wide median, struck a four-door passenger car and then crashed head-on into a 2014 Setra motorocoach. Eight motorcoach passengers and the drivers of the truck and motorcoach were killed. Additionally, 37 motorcoach passengers and two passenger car occupants also suffered injuries.

The bus drivers, according to the NTSB, did not give a safety briefing to passengers or play the prerecorded safety tape. Passengers struggled to find and open emergency windows. There were at least two fatalities because these passengers died from asphyxiation before they could escape from the bus.

The NTSB also found that the windows on the bus were seven feet off the ground, higher than the wings on some passenger planes and increased the risk of injury to passengers jumping from the vehicle. The windows also lacked a mechanism to keep them open. Current fire performance standards are also designed to protect passengers against fires caused by cigarettes and matches but not against the usual causes of bus fires.

The absence of data recorders on the truck and bus hampered the agency’s investigation. Data recorders are not currently required any may have helped determined how the truck crossed the median.

The Board concluded that present standards on emergency signage and lighting must be improved to protect passengers who survive bus accidents and try to escape from the vehicle. It also repeated earlier recommendations that would mandate independently-powered lighting and signage, the use of photo luminescent material to highlight emergency exits and windows that remain open during emergency evacuations. A secondary door should also be installed as an emergency exit because it would expedite evacuations and reduce injuries suffered by passengers who jump from windows. It also sought the installation of data recorders on buses and trucks.

The need for improved safety standards on buses show the risk of a transit accident. Victims of these accidents and their families should seek legal representation to help assure their rights to compensation in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.