The National Transportation Safety Board launched a team of investigators yesterday to the site of a multiple vehicle crash at the interchange of Interstates 895 and 95 in Elkridge, Maryland.
At approximately 3:00 p.m. on January 13, a tanker truck hauling flammable liquid was traveling southbound on I-895 approaching the point where it crosses over I-95 toward the merge with the southbound lanes of I-95. The tanker truck struck and overrode the outside concrete Jersey barrier of the overpass and fell onto the northbound lanes of I-95. Initial scrape marks on the Jersey barrier are about 50 to 60 feet before the point where the truck left the roadway.
The tanker truck landed perpendicular to the lanes on I-95, which resulted in collisions with several other vehicles, including a tractor-box trailer, a tractor-flatbed trailer, a sedan and a pickup. All vehicles were severely burned in the resulting fire.
The Safety Board team is led by Investigator-in-Charge Kenneth Suydam. In dispatching the team, NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners said, "More than 90 percent of transportation fatalities in the United States occur on our highways. Our investigation into yesterday's crash is part of our continuing effort to aggressively pursue safety improvements where they can do the most good."
Although the NTSB team is formulating issues that it will pursue in this investigation, routine lines of inquiry would include vehicle factors, motor carrier factors, highway factors, survival factors and emergency response, human performance, and hazardous materials. As is standard in such investigations, the Safety Board has requested toxicological samples from all involved drivers. Organizations that are parties to the NTSB investigation are the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The NTSB investigates major accidents in all modes of transportation. Its 16 highway investigators are organized into three multi-disciplinary teams that rotate on call 24 hours a day. They investigate about 40 accidents a year.
The NTSB's major products are safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. Through its highway investigations, for example, Board recommendations have led to age-21 drinking laws, the establishment of commercial drivers' licenses, improved school bus construction requirements, and the center high-mounted stop light on the rear of automobiles. Among current issues on its list of Most Wanted Safety Improvements are enhancing protection for motor coach passengers, improving the safety oversight of motor carrier operations and preventing medically- unqualified drivers from operating commercial vehicles.
Safety Board investigations take about a year for the issuance of a final report, but safety recommendations may be issued at any time.