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NJ School Bus Crash Leads To Call For Seat Belts

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wrapped up a meeting during which members considered a Highway Accident Report that calls for better and proper use of school bus seat belts.as a result of a New Jersey school bus crash that killed an 11-year-old girl and left 15 students injured.

School bus accident in Chesterfield in 2012
School bus accident in Chesterfield in 2012 (Brian McCarthy)

On February 16, 2012, a school bus carrying 25 students was traveling northbound on a Burlington County road in Chesterfield through an intersection. At the same time, a full loaded dump truck was traveling east approaching the same intersection.

As the school bus went through the intersection, the truck collided with the left rear of the bus. The crash killed one student on the school bus. Five students were seriously injured, 10 students and the bus driver sustained minor injuries, and nine students were uninjured. The truck driver was not injured.

A comprehensive study of intersection safety had already been suggested and now NTSB member Robert Sumwalt is renewing that call.

NTSB: Fatigue, Overload Led Factors In Accident

“This tragic crash that we’re deliberating today is even more of a motivation to conduct such a study.” says Sumwalt. “Crashes at intersections account for 22-percent of all fatalities on public roadways (nationwide) and 49-percent of injuries….I don’t think a whole lot of assessment needs to be done. I think the numbers are screaming at us.”

Bus accident scene in Chesterfield
Bus Accident Scene in Chesterfield (Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media)

Investigators tell the board that it’s likely the girl who was killed in the crash, Isabelle Tezsla, wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. Injuries from the accident were reduced because some students were wearing their belts. New Jersey is one of six states that require seat belts on school buses.

According to the investigators, the dump truck that hit bus was traveling between 53 mph and 58 mph in a 45 mph zone and the braking ability of the bus was reduced because of several problems. They say a break monitoring system could have warned the driver that his brakes needed to be adjusted.

The bus driver should have been able to see the truck heading his way according to officials who believe fatigue and the sedatives he was taking may have played a part in his not being able to realize the danger of the situation.

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