Citing distraction from the use of a mobile phone by the driver of an 18-wheel semi truck as the probable cause of a crash that killed 11 people, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended banning the use of mobile phones by commercial drivers except in emergencies.
"Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds."
On March 26, 2010, at about 5:14 a.m. CDT, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a truck-tractor semitrailer combination unit driven by a 45-year-old male departed the left lane of southbound Interstate 65, crossed a 60-foot-wide median, struck and overrode a cable barrier system, entered the northbound travel lanes, and struck a 15-passenger van, driven by a 41-year-old male and occupied by 11 passengers (eight adults, two small children, and an infant). The truck driver and 10 of the 12 occupants of the van were killed.
Investigators determined that the driver used his mobile phone for calls and text messages a total of 69 times while driving in the 24-hour period prior to the accident. The driver made four calls in the minutes leading up to the crash, making the last call at 5:14 a.m. CDT, coinciding with the time that the truck departed the highway.
The Safety Board also determined that the median barrier system, which had recently been installed following another cross-median fatal accident on the same section of I-65, contributed to the severity of the accident because it was not designed to redirect or contain a vehicle of the accident truck's size. Because median crossover accidents involving large vehicles are so deadly, the NTSB made recommendations regarding the use of appropriately designed median barriers on roadways with high volumes of commercial vehicles.
At the meeting today, the NTSB issued 15 new safety recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), all 50 states, and the District of Columbia. The Safety Board also reiterated two previously issued recommendations to the FMCSA.
A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, findings, and a complete list of all the safety recommendations, is available on the NTSB's website. The NTSB's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.