Last October we wrote about a fatal tour bus crash near Palm Springs. 13 people died and dozens were injured when the bus collided with the back of a big rig truck. At the time, the cause of the accident was unclear but the following months revealed additional details about what happened on that dark highway.
The crash occurred on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, a stretch of road where California Highway Patrol Officers had briefly stopped traffic because of utility work. When traffic resumed, the driver of the truck in question did not resume driving because he had fallen asleep. An investigation by the California Highway Patrol found that the driver had been working illegally long hours – but, according to new evidence, that was not the sole cause of the accident.
Multiple safety risks: a recipe for disaster
Now federal officials have determined that the state of California may be partially responsible for the deadly crash as well. According to an article by the Associated Press, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the state did not have an adequate traffic plan for the road closure.
Ordinarily, such a closure would be marked by advance warning devices or accompanied by a CHP vehicle with flashing lights. However, neither were present at the time of the closure. As a result, the truck driver was not alerted to resuming traffic and the bus driver had no way to anticipate the stopped truck. In addition, both drivers were fatigued and experienced health problems that could compromise their ability to operate safely.
Poor nighttime visibility, driver fatigue and improper road closure all create substantial risks on their own. As this example shows, many factors can combine to create dangerous – even deadly – conditions on the road. The NTSB’s report made a variety of recommendations for improved road safety. We will be watching for more developments in this case and hoping that it results in better safety guidance in the future.