NTSB Cites Trucker's Cell Phone Distraction in 11-Victim Crash

Keith Laymon used his cell phone for 69 calls or text messages in the 24 hours prior to the March 26, 2010, crash in which his tractor-trailer his a 15-passenger van near Munfordville, Ky.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed a driver’s cell phone use for another multi-fatality crash on Sept. 13, with the board issuing 15 new safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other organizations in connection with the March 26, 2010, crash of a tractor-trailer and a 15-passenger van near Munfordville, Ky. Truck driver Keith Laymon, 45, and 10 of the 12 people riding in the van were killed.

Laymon's truck had left the southbound lanes of I-65 about 5:14 a.m. CDT, crossed a 60-foot-wide media, hit and overtopped a cable barrier system, and entered the northbound lanes, hitting the van. The safety board said Laymon made four calls in the minutes before the crash occurred, including the last one at 5:14 a.m. CDT, which coincided with the time his truck left the southbound lanes, the board reported.

NTSB said the median barrier contributed to the severity of the accident because it was not designed to redirect or contain a vehicle as large as the 18-wheeler. While some of the safety recommendations asked federal agencies and all 50 states to prohibit commercial drivers from any use of cell phones – hands-free or hand-held -- except in emergencies, others called for appropriately designed median barriers on roads with a high volume of commercial vehicles.

"Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds."

The recommendations asked federal agencies to:

  • Work with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to establish warrants and implementation criteria for the selection and installation of Test Level Four and Test Level Five median barriers on the National Highway System.
  • Work with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to identify cross-median crash rates that call for special consideration when selecting median barriers.
  • Work with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to define the criteria for median barrier selection, including heavy vehicle traffic volume.
  • Provide to state transportation agencies information from current research, such as National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 22-25, Development of Guidance for the Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, about the safety risks associated with the installation of cable barrier systems that differ from the configuration of the system as designed and tested; information should include the risks associated with the dynamic deflection that may occur when installation distances between cable barrier anchorages differ from the 600-foot test length prescribed in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware.
  • Include, in your product acceptance letters for cable barrier safety devices, cautionary language reflecting current research, such as National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 22-25, Development of Guidance for the Selection, Use, and Maintenance of Cable Barrier Systems, to warn state transportation agencies of the safety risks associated with the installation of cable barrier systems that differ from the configuration of the system as designed and tested; language should include the risks associated with the dynamic deflection that may occur when installation distances between cable barrier anchorages differ from the 600-foot test length prescribed in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware.
  • Prohibit the use of both handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial driver's license holders while driving in commercial operations, except in emergencies.
  • Work with the Governors Highway Safety Association to add a standard definition for "cross-median crash" and a data element for cross-median crash accidents to the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria.

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