National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials have concluded that driver fatigue and lack of federal safety standards protecting bus passengers contributed to the fatalities and catastrophic injuries in the January 2008 Utah bus rollover accident. These findings assume even more significance after this week’s Soledad California bus crash, which killed five and injured dozens. The fatal Utah bus accident, which was the subject of this NTSB study, occurred when an Arrow Stage Lines chartered bus taking skiers home to Arizona from Utah ran off a winding road and rolled down an embankment. The impact split open the bus’ roof and threw some passengers 100 yards. Nine were killed and 43 were injured. In the recent Central California bus crash, the bus split in half and passengers were thrown from an overpass to the freeway below.
The NTSB’s findings, in my opinion, warrant immediate response. I join my friends at the American Association for Justice (AAJ) in their call to transportation regulators to review pending pre-Obama administration regulations and open new rulemaking proceedings to enhance commercial transportation safety measures for both big rigs and buses. These pending safety regulations include on-board electronic recorders to monitor a driver’s hours of operation and prevent fatigue, seatbelts, stronger roofs and windows. The NTSB has been calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to enact these regulations for nearly a decade.