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Federal agency probes New Jersey bus crash

Many Trenton residents remember hearing about the tragic school bus accident in Chesterfield last year, which resulted in the death of an 11-year-old girl. Five other students suffered serious injuries in the accident that was caused when a dump truck crashed into the side of the school bus, which then spun out and ultimately collided into a pole.

The National Transportation Safety Board met earlier this week to discuss a report on this accident as well as findings from an investigation into a school bus accident that took place last year in Florida. One student was also killed in that collision; four others were seriously injured.

In light of those tragedies, the NTSB may issue new safety recommendations to drivers of large trucks, commercial vehicles and school buses.

In the New Jersey incident, it has now been determined that the bus driver was both fatigued and somewhat sedated as the result of medication he was taking. The driver of the dump truck was speeding at the time of the accident, and the braking system on the bus was compromised due to several issues.

While it is not known what the NTSB might recommend, it is likely that the agency will look further into seat belt use on school buses. Seat belts are already required on new school buses in New Jersey, and there were belts on the bus in that accident, but investigators believe that not all students were wearing their seat belts.

Additionally, school bus seat belts do not have shoulder harnesses.

Investigators have also said that if the New Jersey bus was equipped with a brake monitoring system, the driver could have been warned that the brakes needed work.

Hopefully, the NTSB will come up with some regulations that will keep students much safer in school buses. School buses and the trucking industry are regulated by federal and state law. Drivers and transportation or truck companies can often be held criminally and/or civilly liable after an accident. Those who are injured in bus, public transit or trucking accidents should seek legal counsel to learn about their rights to receive compensation for their medical bills and other costs.

Source: CBS Philly, "NTSB: Driver in Deadly NJ School Bus Crash Tired, On Medications," July 23, 2013

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