This photo shows the final position of the transit bus and the school bus. (Maryland Transportation Authority Police photo)

NTSB Preparing Special Investigative Report on School Bus Safety

Combining two 2016 crash investigations into one comprehensive report allows NTSB to focus on specific areas of concern found in both events and highlight where recommendations are needed, according to the board.

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a board meeting May 22 to consider a Special Investigation Report based on the board's investigation of two 2016 school bus crashes that resulted in 12 fatalities and 37 injuries, combined. The meeting will be open to the public and start at 9:30 a.m. local time.

The agency said the report examines issues in school bus transportation safety discovered during its investigation of a Nov. 1, 2016, crash involving a Baltimore City school bus and a transit bus, and the Nov. 21, 2016, crash of a Hamilton County school bus in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The board's preliminary report about the Baltimore crash indicated the school bus driver had a history of hypertension, diabetes, and seizures and had been involved in at least 12 crashes or incidents during the previous five years while operating a school bus or personal vehicle. "Reports from a number of these cases described seizure-like episodes. At the time of the crash, the school bus driver held a current medical certificate, but it was not on file with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Because the medical certificate was not on file, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration notified the school bus driver about two months before the crash that he was no longer authorized to operate a commercial motor vehicle," NTSB reported.

The school bus was contracted for Baltimore City Schools; it struck a Ford Mustang and then a Maryland Transit Administration bus. The school bus was occupied by a driver and an adult teacher aide, the transit bus by a driver and 13 passengers. The drivers of both buses and four transit bus passengers were killed, while seven other passengers were seriously injured. The teacher aide and two transit bus passengers sustained minor injuries, as did the driver of the car.

Six students died and more than 20 others were injured in the Chattanooga crash, which was a single-vehicle accident. The Hamilton County School bus, operated by Durham School Services and driven by a 24-year-old driver, hit a mailbox, a utility pole, rolled onto its right side and then struck a tree. The bus was transporting 37 students at the time of the crash.

NTSB pointed out in its announcement of the report that, "despite the overall safety of school buses, the NTSB continues to investigate school bus crashes in which fatalities and injuries occur. The NTSB's Special Investigation Report will detail the probable cause for each crash, but by combining both investigations into one comprehensive report, the NTSB is able to focus on specific areas of concern found in both crashes, which allows the agency to highlight where recommendations are needed to continue to improve school bus transportation safety."

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