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Collision of CSX Freight Train and Murray County School District School Bus at Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing in Conasauga, Tennessee, on March 28, 2000
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Event Summary

Board Meeting : Collision of CSX Freight Train and Murray County School District School Bus at Railroad/Highway Grade Crossing in Conasauga, Tennessee, on March 28, 2000
 
12/11/2001 12:00 AM

Executive Summary

Transportation, Inc., freight train traveling 51 mph struck the passenger side of a Murray County, Georgia, School District school bus at a railroad/highway grade crossing near Conasauga, Tennessee. The accident occurred as the school bus was crossing the tracks at a speed of approximately 15 mph. During the accident sequence, the driver and three children were ejected. Two ejected passengers received serious injuries and one was fatally injured. The driver, who had been wearing a lap/shoulder belt that broke during the crash sequence, received minor injuries. Of the four passengers who remained inside the bus, two were fatally injured, one sustained serious injuries, and one, who was restrained by a lap belt, received minor injuries. The two train crewmembers were not injured.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision was the school bus driver's failure to stop before traversing the railroad/highway grade crossing. Contributing to the accident was the Murray County, Georgia, School District's failure to monitor busdriver performance and its lack of school bus route planning to identify hazards on school bus routes and to eliminate the necessity of crossing railroad tracks. Contributing to the injuries of the school bus passengers were incomplete compartmentalization and a lack of energy-absorbing material on interior surfaces.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are the busdriver's performance; school district oversight, including busdriver monitoring and evaluation procedures and bus routing; passive grade crossing safety, including previous initiatives related to passive grade crossing and school bus safety; and occupant kinematics and survival factors.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Georgia Department of Education, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, and the school bus manufacturers. The Safety Board also reiterates a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Recommendations

To the States:

In cooperation with the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, develop and implement a program of initiatives for passive grade crossings and school buses that includes (1) installation of stop signs at passive crossings that are traversed by school buses except where an engineering study shows their installation would create a greater hazard; (2) use of information about whether school buses routinely cross passive grade crossings as a factor in selecting crossings to upgrade with active warning devices; (3) a requirement that all newly purchased and inservice school buses be equipped with noise-reducing switches; (4) enhanced school bus driver training and evaluation, including periodic reviews of on-board videotapes where available, especially with regard to driver performance at grade crossings; and (5) incorporation of questions on passive grade crossings in the commercial driver's license manual and examination. (H-01-38)

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Implement rulemaking to prohibit radio speakers used for music or entertainment from being placed adjacent to drivers' heads in school buses. (H-01-39)

Develop and incorporate into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards performance standards for school buses that address passenger protection for sidewalls, sidewall components, and seatframes. (H-01-40)

Evaluate the feasibility of incorporating automatic crash notification systems on school buses and, if feasible, proceed with system development. (H-01-41)

To the Federal Highway Administration:

Require States to update the Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory to accurately reflect current railroad operations. (H-01-42)

To the Georgia Department of Education:

Require all school districts to disconnect radio speakers used for music or entertainment that are adjacent to school bus drivers' heads. (H-01-43)

To the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services:

Encourage your members to use the Federal Railroad Administration's Web-based accident prediction system or the States' hazard indexes for grade crossings when developing school bus routes. (H-01-44)

In cooperation with the States, develop and implement a program of initiatives for passive grade crossings and school buses that includes (1) installation of stop signs at passive crossings that are traversed by school buses except where an engineering study shows their installation would create a greater hazard; (2) use of information about whether school buses routinely cross passive grade crossings as a factor in selecting crossings to upgrade with active warning devices; (3) a requirement that all newly purchased school buses and in-service school buses be equipped with noise-reducing switches; (4) enhanced school bus driver training and evaluation, including periodic reviews of on-board videotapes where available, especially with regard to driver performance at grade crossings; and (5) incorporation of questions on passive grade crossings in the commercial driver's license manual and examination. (H-01-45)

Notify your members of how and why the driver's lap/shoulder belt tore in this accident and of the potential consequences of large longitudinal distances between lap/shoulder belt anchor points. (H-01-46)

To the School Bus Manufacturers:

Discontinue the installation in school buses of radio speakers used for music or entertainment that are adjacent to the driver's head. (H-01-47)

The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following recommendation:

To the U.S. Department of Transportation:

Develop and implement a field test program for in-vehicle safety and advisory warning systems, variable message signs, and other active devices; then ensure that the private entities who are developing advance technology applications modify those applications as appropriate for use at passive grade crossings. Following the modifications, take action to implement use of the advanced technology applications. (I-98-01)


 


 

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