Bigger Brother
NTSB recommends universal cellphone ban; video event recorders in trucks

By Jami Jones, managing editor

The investigation into the horrific crash in August of 2010 outside of St. Louis involving four vehicles – including two buses – has resulted in a recommendation from the NTSB to ban all cellphone use in vehicles, except for 911 calls.

The National Transportation Safety Board met Dec. 13, 2011, to determine probable cause of the wreck.

The Aug. 5, 2010, wreck on Interstate 44 outside of St. Louis, MO, involved a series of collisions. First a pickup truck struck the back of a stopped bobtail tractor. Following that, a school bus struck the back of the pickup truck, and finally the school bus was struck in the rear by another school bus that had been following.

According to The Associated Press, investigators initially believed the bobtail tractor slowed for the construction zone. The buses were loaded with children from a band camp. The driver of the first bus reportedly was checking her mirrors in preparation for changing lanes and did not see the wreck.

The AP reported the first bus hit the pickup truck and pushed it over the rear of the bobtail tractor. The second bus, also loaded with the band students, hit the rear of the first bus and pushed it on top of the pickup and bobtail tractor.

The driver of the pickup and a student seated in the rear of the first bus were killed. There were 38 others injured.

During the NTSB hearing, a number of contributing factors were highlighted including fatigue, distraction, and lack of recommended following distances.

Presentations reported that the teen driver of the pickup truck was fatigued and had been texting in the moments leading up the collision with the tractor trailer. Records indicate the driver had sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the crash.

The board concluded that the collision between the first school bus and the pickup truck resulted in the bus driver’s attention being “drawn away from the forward roadway” by the motorcoach parked on the roadway.

The second school bus, the board concluded, failed to maintain a recommended following distance, contributing to the third collision in the pileup.

The meeting resulted in a lengthy list of recommendations. Topping the national list of recommendations is a full ban on the non-emergency use of “portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.”

Currently 35 states prohibit texting for at least some drivers and 10 states restrict handheld cellphone use.

A hand-held cellphone ban for interstate truckers as well as all hazmat haulers went into effect Jan. 3, 2012.

As well as proposing the ban on personal electronic devices, the NTSB is recommending video event recorders for all heavy-duty vehicles – in addition to its already recommended electronic on-board recorders. The recommendation also includes a mandate that motor carriers review data from the video event recorders. LL