NTSB Chair Urges Motorcoach Industry to Embrace Safety Technologies

Mark Rosenker, the National Transportation Safety Board's chairman, urged the motorcoach industry Jan. 17 to embrace safety technologies that could alert its drivers about hazardous road and weather conditions. Rosenker mentioned in his speech to an audience at the United Motorcoach Association's Motorcoach EXPO 2008 in San Francisco that NHTSA conducted the first crash test of a full-size motorcoach at 30 mph into a stationary barrier at an Ohio test center on Dec. 14, 2007. He said NHTSA also will analyze motorcoach fire safety.

In an average year, 631 million people travel in the United States by motorcoach – more than travel by air or rail, he said. Fatal motorcoach accidents are rare, but they increased in 2005 and 2006, Rosenker added.

NTSB has recommended that NHTSA develop a fire protection standard for motorcoaches, partly as a result of the board's investigation of a Sept. 23, 2005, fire on a bus nearing Dallas as it evacuated elderly patients as Hurricane Rita approached the Texas coast. The rear axle caught fire, and 23 passengers died. Some industry experts estimate there is an average of one motorcoach fire every day, Rosenker said, according to the transcript posted at www.ntsb.gov. Motorcoach fire data are incomplete, he added.

NTSB will issue at least three reports this year documenting its findings and recommendations from motorcoach accidents, including the March 2007 crash involving a bus that was carrying the Bluffton University baseball team on I-75 near Atlanta, where about 5 a.m. the bus driver took an exit ramp and struck a concrete barrier at high speed at the top of the ramp, causing the bus to flip over the railing and fall to the interstate roadbed below, killing the driver, his wife, and five passengers.

"We will continue to discuss in our accident investigation reports that it is crucial to look at how the use of appropriate technology can help reduce these avoidable, preventable accidents. It is time to implement safety improvements that provide crash mitigation -- and time to enter a new era where safety technology will also help us prevent accidents," he said.

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