November 16, 2009: Today DOT announced a Motorcoach safety plan which did not include any issues about roadway infastructure. Perhaps in recognition of the futility of trying to design roadways to be able to contain errant Motorcoaches? The study was probably brought about in part due to the 22 deaths in the 1999 New Orleans Mothers Day Bus Crash
. The lack of anything addressing roadway infastructure in the study probably comes as a surprise to the State of Lousiana. In May 2009 the State lost an appeal to the Supreme Court
(The high court refused without comment) to review Civil District Judge Rosemary Ledet's ruling that the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
and bus driver Frank Bedell were equally negligent. In the accident the bus with an incapacitated driver, travelling well over 55 mph (see Bus Launch Speed Calculations & Data
for a presentation of scene, photos and speed calculations) ran across 3 lanes and then ran off the roadway for 275 feet before launching across a golf cart path and crashing into the far side slope. A vehicle at the speed limit and applying moderate braking could have stopped on the shoulder in 275 feet. Plaintiff's own experts testified that there was no traffic safety device which could or would have avoided the bus crash. Plaintiffs opined that there should have been a bridge rail
, a NJ median barrier
(which their expert testified would have produced a rollover and therefore an inverted bus encountering the hazard) and also opined there could have been a tall wall barrier
. Questions arise about what guidelines exist for either of these installations in the subject location? And how far from the hazard are the installaiton requirements for either of these barriers? Would the guidelines require 300 or more feet? And what end treatment (the bus in the subject accident actually passed through the end reatment section of the barrier.
The only discussion of Crash Avoidance Measures (NHTSA and FHWA) included in the recently released DOT Motorcoach Study were as follows:
- 1) Develop performance requirements and assess the safety benefits of stability control systems on motorcoaches – Q4 2009 (NHTSA)
2) Expand research on crash-avoidance warning systems – 2010 (NHTSA)
3) Initiate rulemaking to improve tire performance – Q2 2010 (NHTSA)
4) Enhance signage to guide vehicles safely through highway entrances and exits – December 2009 (FHWA)
There was no mention of changing exisiting safety guidelines.
The following is more information from DOT site on the study:
DOT 179-09, U.S. Department of Transportation Releases New Action Plan to Address Motorcoach Safety Issues
The U.S. Department of Transportation today released its Motorcoach Safety Action Plan which lays out concrete steps for improving motorcoach safety across the board. The action plan addresses major safety issues such as driver fatigue and inattention, vehicle rollover, occupant ejections and oversight of unsafe carriers.
- "We are committed to making sure that bus travelers reach their destinations safely," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "These improvements will not only help reduce the number of motorcoach crashes, it will also help save lives and reduce injuries."
While motorcoach travel is a very safe mode of highway transportation in the United States, carrying 750 million passengers annually, an average of 19 motorcoach occupants are killed in crashes each year according to data collected by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additional fatalities result among pedestrians, and occupants of other vehicles involved in these crashes. To address this issue, Secretary LaHood directed DOT's agencies to take a fresh look at motorcoach safety issues, identify actions to address outstanding safety problems, and develop an aggressive schedule to implement those actions. The data show that driver fatigue, vehicle rollover, occupant ejection, and operator maintenance issues contribute to the majority of motorcoach crashes, fatalities, and injuries. From this, DOT has identified seven priority action items that will have the greatest impact on reducing motorcoach crashes, fatalities, and injuries.
The priority action items are:
- 1) Initiate rulemaking to require electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers’ duty hours and manage fatigue.
2) Initiate rulemaking to propose prohibiting texting and limiting the use of cellular telephones and other devices by motorcoach drivers.
3) Initiate rulemaking to require the installation of seat belts on motorcoaches to improve occupant protection.
4) Evaluate and develop roof crush performance requirements to enhance structural integrity.
4) Develop performance requirements and assess the safety benefits for stability control systems on motorcoaches to reduce rollover
6) Enhance oversight of carriers attempting to evade sanctions and of other unsafe motorcoach companies.
7) Establish minimum knowledge requirements for people applying for authority to transport passengers.
The comprehensive action plan announced today proposes enhanced regulatory oversight of new and high risk motorcoach operators, as well as the increased use of new technologies. To address driver distraction, it proposes to initiate rulemaking to prohibit texting and limit the use of cellular telephones and other devices by motorcoach drivers. It also discusses requiring electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers' duty hours to address fatigue, and enhanced oversight of unsafe carriers.
In addition, the action plan proposes to better protect motorcoach occupants by requiring the installation of seat belts and discusses additional measures such as the establishment of performance requirements for enhanced roof strength, fire safety, and emergency egress. It also calls for safety improvements using technologies such as electronic stability control to prevent rollovers.
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