The National Transportation Safety Board has renewed its
call for collision warning systems on all commercial vehicles.
And on April 18, the NTSB called for more open-road tolling
systems, which allow trucks and cars to simply pass electronic sensors instead
of having to slow down or stop at a toll plaza.
Both recommendations grew out of a study of a toll plaza
wreck on Interstate 90 in Illinois in 2003. In that wreck, a tractor-trailer
rear-ended a small tour bus, killing eight passengers.
The NTSB reported the wreck was caused by driver
inattentiveness – which led to the Freightliner hitting the slow-moving bus at
NTSB spokeswoman Lauren Peduzzi said the wreck might not
have occurred if the truck driver had had a collision warning device in his
“That’s a device that would be on the vehicle itself, (and)
using radar capabilities, would sense obstacles to the front and possibly to
the side of a vehicle,” Peduzzi said. “(It) alerts the driver when the distance
between your vehicle and an obstacle ahead begins to collapse to a degree where
braking capability may be compromised.”
During the course of the NTSB investigation into the 2003
wreck, toll plaza design, and the lack of a national standard for the design
was called into question.
“The old style toll plaza design does present a safety
hazard because it does slow down traffic on otherwise high-speed highways. We
looked at some possibilities for keeping that traffic moving – such as open
tolling, electronic tolling lanes,” Peduzzi said.
The Hampshire-Marengo toll plaza where the fatal wreck
occurred three years ago is being dismantled and converted to an open-road toll
The truck driver – Vincente Zepeda of Chicago – is scheduled
for trial this summer on charges that he was driving too fast and was driving
with faulty brakes that he hadn’t checked. The NTSB report did say, however,
that the faulty brakes did not contribute to the accident.
– By Reed Black, staff writer