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In November 2016, the NTSB began the investigation of two crashes involving school buses. Each crash was initiated when the driver lost control of the bus. In the November 1 crash in Baltimore, Maryland, the driver was epileptic and suffered a seizure. In the November 21 crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the driver was speeding while using a cell phone and ran off the road. In both cases, the school bus operators were private for-hire motor carriers. Although the specific safety issues differed, the crashes shared one common factor: poor driver oversight by both the school districts and the contracted motor carriers, which resulted in unsafe operation of the school buses. Between the two crashes, 12 people died and 37 were injured. The crash investigations focused on the following safety issues: school districts’ lack of oversight of student transportation providers; poor management of unsafe school bus drivers by the motor carriers and school districts; medically unfit school bus drivers; commercial driver license fraud; occupant protection in large school buses; and the benefits of electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, and event data recorders. The NTSB made safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); the states of Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York; 42 states, the District of Columbia, and the territory of Puerto Rico—which lack requirements for lap/shoulder belts on large school buses; the state of Maryland; the Maryland Department of Education; the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration; five school bus transportation associations; National Express LLC; seven school bus manufacturers; five electronic health record companies; and Concentra, Inc. The report also reiterates four recommendations to NHTSA and reclassifies a recommendation to the Baltimore City Public Schools.
TO THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Require all new school buses to be equipped with collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking technologies.
Original recommendation transmittal letter:
Open - Acceptable Response
Chattanooga, TN, United States
Preliminary Report: HIGHWAY - HWY17MH009
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status:
NHTSA (Open - Acceptable Response)
Safety Recommendation History
We note that you have moved forward with your frontal collision avoidance research and are now studying how next-generation systems perform on heavy vehicles in real-world situations. We understand that trucks have been the focus of this work, and we encourage you to test and evaluate various types of heavy vehicles, including different types of buses, to understand the systems’ safety benefits. Your efforts thus far show progress toward addressing these recommendations. Pending publication of the recommended standards and requirement, Safety Recommendations H 15-5 and H-18-8 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.
-From Heidi R. King, Deputy Administrator: NHTSA is engaged with reducing frontal collisions and continues to investigate automatic emergency braking technologies. NHTSA researched early versions of automatic forward collision avoidance systems present in MY 2013-2015 vehicles. On October 16, 2015, NHTSA granted a petition for rulemaking submitted by the Truck Safety Coalition, the Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and Road Safe America to establish a safety standard to require automatic forward collision avoidance and mitigation systems on certain heavy vehicles. NHTSA is currently researching next generation technology for heavy vehicles with a GVWR greater than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB). AEB system suppliers have released new products which are designed to address the shortcomings of the previous generation of AEB systems. These systems have been designed to offer improved threat detection (e.g., reduce false activations that were observed on the earlier systems) and new features such as the ability to activate and brake when encountering stationary objects. NHTSA is interested in the real-world performance of these new systems and is currently studying this next generation technology through a naturalistic study using a field operation test. We expect to complete this critical field operation testing within 18-24 months. This research and other information will help inform an agency decision on next steps, including any further rulemaking actions. Based on the information we are providing, NHTSA respectfully requests that NTSB classify Safety Recommendations H-18-008 and H-15-005 as "Open-Acceptable Response."
On May 22, 2018, the NTSB adopted its report Selective Issues in School Bus Transportation Safety: Crashes in Baltimore, Maryland, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, NTSB/SIR-18/02. The details of these investigations and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at www.ntsb.gov. Among the safety recommendations are one new recommendation and four reiterated recommendations issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which can be found on pages 76 and 79 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it exceeds 20 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.
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