Two fatal school bus crashes have led the National Transportation Safety Board to make new recommendations regarding the manufacturing and maintenance of school buses.
The first fatal crash occurred in February 2012 when a school bus in Chesterfield, NJ collided in an intersection with a dump truck that had the right of way. Two children, Isabelle Tezsla and Jonathan Zdybel, both 11, were killed, and 17 children were seriously injured. An investigation into the crash revealed that the driver of the bus was inexperienced and on medicine that made him drowsy and slow to react. The driver had failed to mention being on the medication during the medical exam that qualified him to drive commercially, according to the investigation. Furthermore, the dump truck was found to be overfilled and speeding when it approached the intersection.
The second crash occurred in Port St. Lucie, Florida one month later when a sod truck struck the side of a school bus. Nineteen children were injured and 10-year-old Aaron Beauchamp was killed. An investigation into the crash resulted in the bus driver being cited for failing to yield.
Both Florida and New Jersey are among the six states that require children on school buses to wear seatbelts. In the Florida crash the bus was equipped with a camera that recorded seatbelt use. In the Florida crash, despite the camera monitoring seatbelt use, several of the children who were injured or killed were either wearing their seatbelts improperly or not wearing them at all.
Based on its findings, the NTSB has recommended that states with seatbelt laws tell parents and children about the importance of wearing a seatbelt and how to do so properly. The agency also recommended that manufacturers establish standards for school bus seat frames and side walls as well as procedures for safeguarding seat structure during a crash.
Additionally, the report called on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to develop an oversight program that would better train medical examiners to know what conditions to be aware of when evaluating potential commercial drivers.
Finally, the NTSB pressed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop standards for connected vehicle technology that would inform one vehicle when another is entering an intersection. The NTSB noted that 7300 people were killed in intersections during 2011.
The parents of Isabelle Tezsla are suing the bus and truck company as well as the construction company responsible for overloading the dump truck.