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NTSB seeks improved vehicle onboard systems

Commercial vehicles, such as motorcoaches and school buses, are often equipped with vehicle onboard onboard video systems that continuously record video or make these recordings after an event that triggered the crash. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recently issued a report and safety alert on the benefit of these systems and recommending improvements.

The NTSB relies on these systems to determine why bus accidents occur and to develop recommendations on measures to prevent other crashes and reducing fatalities and injuries when similar accidents occur. Video systems can also monitor passenger behavior and deter bullying or theft, monitor surrounding traffic and compliance with traffic laws and provide feedback on the bus driver’s activities to modify unsafe behavior.

For example, in a 2012 collision between a school bus and a truck-tractor semitrailer in, the NTSB was able to gather information from a video system on passenger behaviors, vehicle motion and events after the accident — such as passenger evacuation, short-term injury outcomes and the actions of first-responders. However, in a 2011 crash between a truck and a motorcoach, the onboard system was unable to record important crash and post-crash information because of poorly-oriented interior cameras and inadequate low-light recording capability.

The NTSB’s recent report uncovered similar flaws in these systems. It found that many systems cannot record activity in front of the buses, had no view of all seating positions and the driver’s seat, lacked low-light recording and night-vision capabilities, produced video that skipped over events because of low frame rates and were not maintained properly.

In its report, the NTSB made several recommendations to improve onboard videos. New or currently-installed systems should provide visibility of the bus driver, each occupant seating location and the front of the bus. The equipment should have an optimized frame rate and allow low-light recording capability to record accidents occurring at night.

Transit accident victims and their families often rely on obtaining information, such as these videos, to determine liability and to help obtain compensation for their injuries. Prompt legal assistance may help assure that this evidence is available for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit and that a victim’s right to compensation is preserved.