The California Department of Transportation is responsible for a fatal Greyhound bus crash in San Jose, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled. The board determined that the crash, which killed two passengers and injured another 14 on Jan. 19, 2016, occurred because the state DOT failed to properly mark a roadside crash barrier with a reflective sign.
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Additionally, the board said there could have been fewer deaths and injuries if more people were wearing their seatbelts. Out of the 21 passengers on the bus, only two were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash. The two passengers who died were ejected from the vehicle. They were not wearing seatbelts.
According to Law360, the accident occurred while it was raining. NTSB says the driver was in a paved area between a highway lane and an exit lane headed toward an energy-absorbing metal barrier blocking a concrete highway barrier. The driver believed he was in the exit lane at the time, and was unable to see the barrier because it was unmarked, the board said.
Subsequently, the bus crashed into the metal barrier. The vehicle ended up the concrete barrier and rolled over onto its right side.
“This crash did not have to happen, because the barrier that the bus hit should have been visible, even in the bad weather, but it was not,” said NTSB Acting Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr in a statement, according to Law360. “Moreover, the crash would probably have resulted in fewer deaths and injuries if the occupants had worn their seat belts.”
NTSB says that if Caltrans had used stripes or chevrons to properly mark the barrier and the pavement between the roadways, the accident may not have happened. Furthermore, the severity of the accident could have been reduced if more people were wearing their seatbelts.
Caltrans should improve the highway’s left exit signage and paint chevrons on the area between lanes, NTSB said. The board advised Greyhound to remind passengers of the importance of wearing seatbelts before a trip begins.
The board also had recommendations for Motor Coach Industries International Inc., the company that manufactured the bus driver’s seat. During the crash, the driver’s seat became unbolted from the floor of the bus and threw him across the vehicle. He landed in the bus doorway strapped to his seat, the Mar. 22, 2017 safety report says.
NTSB advised the company to improve the design of the driver’s seat. “Although, in this crash, the driver seat separated completely – which clearly poses significant risk of injury and ejection – even less severe damage to the seat base could affect a driver’s ability to control the vehicle,” the board stated.
According to Law360, Greyhound commented that its driver was “doing exactly what he was trained to do as a commercial vehicle operator.” The board rejected allegations that the accident was caused by driver fatigue. Greyhound noted that NTSB commended the company for installing seatbelts before they were required by law.
Palm Springs Tour Bus Accident Kills 13, Injures 31
Another deadly bus crash occurred in California in October 2016. A tour bus collided with a tractor trailer near Palm Springs, killing 13 people and injuring another 31. The accident was one of the deadliest to occur in California history in the past several decades.
The 1996 MCI bus, operated by USA Holiday, was transporting passengers back to Los Angeles from Red Earth Casino near Salton Sea.
“In almost 35 years I’ve never been to a crash where there’s been 13 confirmed fatalities,” said California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele to CNN at the time. “So, it’s tough, it’s tough for all of us.”
Officials say there were no seatbelts on the tour bus. Some passengers suffered facial injuries as a result, which will require plastic surgery. The bus driver was killed in the accident. Among the occupants who died, ten were women and three were men.