New NTSB Recommendations After Meigs Bus Crash Investigation

DECATUR, Tenn. (WDEF)-On October 27, 2020, a utility service truck driver lost control of his vehicle on Highway 58 in Meigs County, causing the deaths of 53 year old school bus driver Lisa Dillard, and a 7 year old student.

After a two year investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded their investigation and released their findings. According to the NTSB, the probable cause of the accident was the driver of the utility service truck being inattentive due to focusing on a trailing vehicle.

In the aftermath of the investigation, they have come back with two main findings. First, they are renewing their calls that lap shoulder belts be installed on all new school buses.

Meg Sweeney, an investigator for the NTSB, said that, “In this case, lap shoulder belts would have likely would have helped keep those students in their seats and prevented, or at least reduced their injuries.”

The NTSB does want to reassure parents that the design of school buses does have safety in mind, as Sweeney pointed out, “A part of that is the design of a passive restraint system called compartmentalization. A compartment is formed within the seats, the high back seats, to protect the children, particularly in a frontal crash, from moving forward.”

They are also recommending that heavy buses and trucks with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more be equipped with lane departure warning systems. Sweeney explained that, “There are lane departure warning systems which alert a driver when they have drifted from their lane and the driver is required to take a response. There are also more advanced systems; lane departure prevention systems, sometimes referred to as lane keep system that actively intervene with the driver.”

Currently nine states require seat belts on school buses, but Tennessee is not one of them. Four other students were seriously injured in the crash.

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