Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, addressed recent school bus crashes that the agency has been investigating.
Distracted driving in school bus tragedies
Distracted driving was also the focus of a keynote presentation at the summit. Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), addressed recent crashes that the agency has investigated or is still investigating.
In the NTSB’s investigation of the August 2010 fatal crash in Gray Summit, Mo., involving a pickup truck, truck-tractor and two school buses, the agency determined that the probable cause of the initial collision was distraction, likely due to a text messaging conversation being conducted by the pickup driver.
NTSB found that the second collision, between the lead school bus and the pickup, was the result of the bus driver’s inattention to the forward roadway due to excessive focus on a motorcoach parked on the shoulder of the road.
And the final collision, the agency said, was due to the driver of the following school bus not maintaining the recommended minimum distance from the lead school bus in the seconds preceding the accident. “That’s a training issue,” Hart said of the following distance problem.
Cell phone use is a “huge” problem in all modes of transportation, and “it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he told NAPT attendees. “It’s very important to have a corporate policy on cell phone use.”
Another presentation also took a hard look at a tragic school bus accident.
Hunter Pitt, a 6-year-old in Callaway County, Mo., was killed in January 2011 when his school bus ran over him as he crossed in front. The boy’s parents later worked with the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state organizations to create a video that explains the accident and emphasizes the importance of school bus drivers staying focused, particularly when children are loading and unloading.
Willie Leonberger, the driver of the bus that ran over Hunter, said that a commotion on the bus distracted him as Hunter was unloading, and he also pointed to complacency as a factor.
“I believe when we get into a routine, we can lose our focus on what we are doing,” the former bus driver said in the video. “That accident changed my life and caused a lot of heartbreak and sorrow for Hunter’s family.”
To view the video, go to www.moapt.org.