Proposed NHTSA Regulations to Protect Passengers in Motorcoaches and Large Buses

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a new federal motor vehicle safety standard to protect motorcoach and other large bus passengers in rollover crashes.  The proposal aims to improve the structural design to ensure that passengers are better protected in rollover crashes by ensuring the space around them remains intact and the emergency exits remain operable. The proposed standard would establish performance requirements that each new motorcoach and large bus must meet when subjected to a dynamic test in which the motorcoach or bus is tipped over from a raised platform onto a hard level surface.  The proposed standard would:
  • Required space around occupant seating positions be maintained to afford occupants survivable space in a crash
  • Requires seats, overhead luggage racks and window glazing to remain attached to their mountings during and after testing; and
  • Require emergency exits to remain closed during the rollover test and operable after test.
Both the proposed test procedure and performance requirements are closely modeled after European regulations for large buses.  In a separate rulemaking action to improve safety even further, NHTSA is planning on finalizing requirements later this year for stability control technologies in these vehicles, which would help prevent rollovers from occurring. “Approximately 700 million trips are taken on commercial buses each year.  Raising the standard for motorcoache’s durability, in the event of a crash, is critical to saving the lives of the passengers inside.” said FMCSA Administrator Ann Ferro.  “In addition to taking critical steps to improve the structural design of buses, we are committed to further increasing motorcoach safety through stricter oversight, in-depth investigations into high risk companies, and by ensuring that drivers are properly licensed and medically fit for the job.” To read more visit the following link: NPRM

CPSC considers banning ATV passengers

CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) said that ATV-related fatalities continue to be one of the largest categories of consumer product-related deaths, despite various activities addressing ATV safety instituted since the 1980s, including rulemakings, recalls, consumer education, litigation and media outreach. CPSC has issued a Request for Information (RFI) and invites interested parties to provide feedback on:
  • The prevalence of passenger use and the reasons why passengers ride on ATVs;
  • Potential means of preventing passengers from being carried on ATVs not intended for that purpose;
  • Potential impacts of these requirements on the utility of ATVs; and
  • Possible changes to ATV design that would prevent passenger use and whether such changes would be translated into a performance standard.
The RFI seeks to gather information that will add to agency data on quantifying passenger locations in fatal incidents. “Staff’s data do not provide information on passenger location during normal, non-incident use. In addition, CPSC data contain little information about aftermarket use of passenger seats or information about the need of ATV drivers to carry passengers,” the agency noted. CPSC seeks data and information on the prevalence of passengers riding ATVs, the purchase and use of aftermarket seats, and the feasibility of a performance standard that would restrict or forbid carrying passengers. CPSC reviews of incident reports and other studies demonstrates that passengers ride in multiple locations on ATVs, including on cargo racks, and in front and behind the operator. Passengers account for about 25 percent of ATV injuries, the agency said. A recent pilot study of ATV-related fatalities found that of 502 reported incidents involving more than one rider on an ATV, more than 80 percent involved two riders, a driver and a passenger. . Around 10 percent of passenger-related fatal incidents involved more than two riders (i.e. a driver and two or more passengers). When two or more passengers were involved, a passenger was more likely to be fatally injured, according to CPSC. Veritech Consulting Engineering specializes in the reconstruction and analysis of motor vehicle accidents, with a specific specialty in ATV and UTV accident reconstruction.  If you are an attorney looking for an expert with a case involving an ATV or UTV please contact Veritech’s ATV expert, Mark Kittel, P.E. to discuss the specifics of your case. 303-660-4395

Bosch Releases CDR Version 14.0

On August 29th, 2014 Bosch CDR (Crash Data Retrieval) announced the release of its latest software version, 14.0.  The new software adds airbag module imaging support for select 2015 Audi vehicles sold in the US and Canada.  Select Audi vehicle “black boxes” can now be accessed via the DLC (Diagnostic Link Connector) or by directly connecting to the vehicle’s Airbag Control Module (ACM).  The select Audi vehicles which are now supported include:
  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • Audi A5
  • Audi A6
  • Audi A7
  • Audi A8
  • Audi Q3
  • Audi Q5
In addition, Bosch has also released a software patch (Version 14.0.1) which adds coverage for the 2014 and 2015 Volkswagen EOS models. The Bosch CDR system supports select airbag modules for vehicle as far back as 1994.  To see if the pre-crash data from your vehicle’s airbag module can be downloaded please see the BOSCH CDR Coverage List. Veritech engineers utilize the Bosch CDR system as an important tool to aid in performing vehicle accident reconstructions.  Airbag modules are capable of recording valuable pre-crash information, such as vehicle speed, brake application and seatbelt usage, but are not capable of telling the entire story.  Accident reconstruction engineers must still consider all of the available physical evidence, along with the ACM data, in to order to properly reconstruct an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineering employs Professional Engineers who are specifically trained and certified in the use of the Bosch CDR system and have performed numerous accident reconstructions utilizing airbag module information.  Please visit our web page at for additional information on “black box” technology.

The “Black Box” Revealed: History of Flight Data Recorders

How many time have we heard that investigators are searching for the “black box” after an aviation accident? This refers to the flight data recorder (FDR) which all commercial and corporate airplanes in the United States are required to carry. They are also required to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder. It might seem like the FDR is an extremely modern, space age device, but in fact, the earliest type of flight recorders date back to 1939. Developed in France by François Hussenot and Paul Beaudouin, their “type HB” flight recorder used a photographic record. Another early version was developed in the UK during World War II by Len Harrison and Vic Husband. Their technology used various styli which indicated readings of various instruments / aircraft controls and were recorded on copper foil. Modern FDR technology was invented by Dr. David Warren at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia. In the mid-1950s he took part in the investigation of a mysterious crash involving the world’s first jet-powered commercial aircraft, the Comet. It occurred to Dr. Warren that if there had been some kind of recording of what was happening on the aircraft just prior to the crash—that would have been a huge help to the investigation. His first demonstration unit was produced in 1957. In 1960, an unexplained plane crash in the northern part of Australia prompted that government to make the Black Box mandatory for all commercial aircraft. They were the first country to do so. The media was quick to adopt the term, “black box.” Although the origins of the term “black box” are uncertain, what is certain is that having them onboard aircraft has revolutionized the accident reconstruction industry. Black Box Facts: • FDRs are not located in the cockpit of an aircraft, but rather in the rear, typically in the tail. Why? It’s unlikely that a plane would go down tail first. The entire front and midsection of the plane acts as a buffer, to reduce the shock reaching the recorder. • Today’s black box is not black at all, but a bright orange for ease in spotting it among the wreckage in case of an accident. • Black boxes emit an underwater locator beacon for up to 30 days, in case of a water crash. They can operate in depths of up to 20,000 feet.

As the Motorcycling Community Grows, so do Fatality Rates

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website reports on recent trends in their Motorcycle Safety Program. They state that the numbers of motorcyclists on our nation’s roads continues to expand at a rapid pace. New unit sales of on-highway motorcycles have increased approximately 91 percent since 1997. The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) predicts continued increases in motorcycle sales over the next 5 to 7 years as well. Although the NHTSA doesn’t go into much detail about the reasons behind these increases, they do share some sobering statistics. Although helmet use is falling, leading to more fatalities, helmet usage is not now and has never been the cause of accidents. Rider impairment, lack of skill/training, and excessive speed are contributing factors in many motorcycle crashes. For fifty percent of motorcycle fatalities in single vehicle crashes (no other vehicle involved) difficulty negotiating a curve has been found to be a major contributing factor. Almost 60 percent of motorcycle fatalities, also single vehicle, happen at night. More than 80 percent of single vehicle crash fatalities occur off the roadway itself. This could be on the median, shoulder, in parking lanes, and gores (area where to roads either converge or diverge.) NHTSA also reports that motorcyclists over 40, specifically those riding larger motorcycle engine sizes, now are the fastest growing group of motorcyclist fatalities. No specific reasons for this are given. In contrast, over the past 10 years, fatalities in the 20 to 29 year old age group decreased. This was the group that had consistently had the highest fatality rate in the past. Again, no reasons are given. During this time, however, there were more driving age individuals in the 40 and over age group in the United States. According to NHTSA statistics, only 20 percent of passenger vehicle crashes result in injury or death. But a whopping 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. In 1997, NHTSA partnered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Together, they created the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (National Agenda). This strategic planning document was intended to provide a shared National vision for future motorcycle safety efforts. For more information about this document, and more information about motorcycle safety on our nation’s highways, please visit their site.

NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Collapse of I-5 Bridge in Washington State

The National Transportation Safety Board continues their investigation into the I-5 bridge collapse over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon, WA. Although the collapse occurred on May 24, 2013, to date they have only released a preliminary report, covering the circumstances and causes of this collapse. The details from PRELIMINARY REPORT HIGHWAY HWY13MH012 are as follows: On Thursday, May 23, 2013, a span of the Interstate 5 Bridge (Structure 4794A) at milepost 228.25 in Mount Vernon, Skagit County, Washington, collapsed into the Skagit River.The bridge was constructed in 1955 and the collapsed span consisted of two northbound and two southbound traffic lanes divided by a concrete barrier. Leading up to the collapse, a Kenworth truck-tractor hauling an oversize load was following a pilot vehicle southbound on I-5. Witnesses reported that as these two vehicles approached the bridge, a second southbound tractor-trailor overtook and passed the vehicle with the oversize load in the left lane. The driver of the first tractor-trailor reported to NTSB investigators that he had felt “crowded” by the other vehicle trying to pass. In reaction, he moved his vehicle over towards the right hand side of the road. As the oversize load he was hauling moved onto the bridge, it collided with the overhead portal and multiple sway braces on the far right side of the truss structure. This caused major damage to load-bearing members of the bridge’s superstructure. The result was the subsequent collapse of the bridge into the river. The height of the oversize load was a major contributing factor. The driver reported the height of the load to be 15 feet 9 inches, but the lowest portion of the sway braces was later measured at only 14 feet 8 inches. Two passenger vehicles were also on the bridge span at the time of the collapse, and wound up in the river as well. Injuries but no fatalities were reported. The second part of the NTSB’s report has yet to be issued and the investigation is still listed as ongoing and active.

NTSB Investigates Fatal Metro-North Derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the Metro-North derailment in the Bronx is only in its first days, but it has already turned up some startling facts. The train derailed on the morning of Dec. 1, right outside the Spuyten Duyvil station, with four fatalities and 70 injuries as the tragic result. As is customary in NTSB investigations, as well as all kinds of accident reconstructions, two event recorders from the derailed train were examined. The train, plane, or truck’s speed is just one of the many specifics documented by the vehicle’s event recorder. According to NTSB board member Earl Weener, the train headed into the curve just ahead of the station at 82 mph, in a zone where the speed limit drops from 70 mph to 30 mph. In addition, the NTSB also found some kind of problem with the train’s brake pressure. A mere five seconds prior to the engine finally stopping, brake pressure dropped from 120 psi to 0. NTSB investigators still have more work to do to determine whether or not the brakes were functioning correctly and why the pressure went to 0. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) remarked that “given this was the fifth major accident or malfunction on the Metro-North Railroad in just over six months, major questions have arisen about safety on the commuter railroad system.” As of Dec. 3, the NTSB states that it remains unclear whether human error or faulty equipment was responsible for this deadly derailment. Their investigation continues. Needless to say, this fatal accident has brought service on the line to a halt, inconveniencing thousands of commuters. N.Y. Governor Cuomo said in a statement on Monday that he expects to see Metro-North service restored toward the end of the week, though officials for the railroad itself said there was no definitive timetable for full service.

How the NTSB Investigates an Accident

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is the independent Federal Agency tasked with investigating every civil aviation accident in the U.S. and significant accidents in other modes of transportation. This can include railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. When an accident occurs, their investigators are immediately sent to the scene. Called the “Go Team,” these experts are on call and must be ready to leave quickly during their duty shift. The team can number anywhere from three to more than a dozen specialists, depending on the nature of the accident itself. Their purpose: to begin the investigation into the causes of the accident right at the scene. Team members are sent from the NTSB’s headquarters in D.C., and they may travel to the accident scene either on a commercial airliner or on a government plane. They work under an Investigator-in-Charge. This is a senior investigator, who has many years of experience. Each investigator on the “Go Team” is an expert in a particular area and is responsible for one, clearly defined area of the investigation. Each of these experts head a “working group,” which is basically a subcommittee consisting of the representatives of many other involved parties. For example, for an aviation accident, a working group might consist of the NTSB specialist and representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airline, the pilots’ and flight attendants’ unions, airframe and engine manufacturers, and the like. Aviation accidents are particularly complex, requiring bigger teams with more specialists. For surface accidents, such as the recent Dec. 1 Metro North derailment, a locomotive engineers, signal system specialists and track engineers would head the working groups, along with representatives from Metro North and any unions involved. During the on-scene investigation, only confirmed, factual information is ever released to the public. The NTSB does not ever speculate about cause. After the on-scene investigation, the second stage of the investigation continues at NTSB headquarters in Washington. One of the main roles of the Board is to issue recommendations for improving transportation safety. It might take the board a year or more from the date of the accident for the board to conclude their investigation, analyze all the data, and present a report including their recommendations. For more information on how the NTSB responds to accidents, and how their investigators move through an investigation, coming to a final conclusion, click here.