The bus accident April 9th that injured many of the 38 Huntington student passengers on board is yet further confirmation of an alarming trend- collisions between commercial busses and low overpasses.
On April 9th, a bus carrying dozens of students, struck a low-clearance overpass on Long Island’s Southern State Parkway. Initial reports indicate that the driver, who was unfamiliar with commercial vehicle restrictions on the parkway, was relying upon a GPS device which did not provide warnings or information about low overpasses. This crash is similar to crashes in Syracuse, NY, and Boston, MA. In each of those crashes, the driver followed a GPS and passed signs indicating a low clearance ahead. Anapol Weiss represented passengers in those bus crashes.
Most people are surprised at the number of low bridge hits that occur with Trucks and busses. One study estimates 200 hits per year in New York state alone. Many of these cases involve drivers following a GPS right into a bridge. In most cases, the driver is not specifically aware that the GPS will lead them to a low bridge. Most GPS units do not carry a warning. GPS companies have the low bridge information and sell GPS units with a vehicle height input but there is normally no warning that a particular GPS should not be used in a commercial vehicle. The problem was so severe that in 2013, USDOT did a study and issued a warning card that can be placed on a commercial vehicle visor.
Many tragedies like this collision occur when a driver relies on a device rather than his or her training to direct a vehicle. Drivers must be reminded that even a short distraction can result in a devastating collision. A driver who is distracted for only 2 seconds will travel 160 feet — half a football field — at 55 mph and will require an additional second to perceive and react to the conditions when his or her eyes go back onto the road. At that point, they will still need over 250 feet to stop.
Bus drivers require a special license and extra training. They should be keenly aware of their routes and of the dangers of looking at GPS devices while moving. While the collisions with low overpasses may be the result of a momentary act of carelessness, it could also signal a lack of training.
All of these collisions can be prevented with the proper equipment and properly trained drivers who are vigilant in using their skills and training on the roadway.
Written by James Ronca