Monday, January 19, 2009

Sussex Bus Crash Recommendations Could Have Saved Our Children?

We were shocked to read that one of the recommendations of the Coroners Inquest into the tragic Sussex Bus crash in 2001 which took the lives of four American children was a campaign to educate drivers on the dangers of driving while tired!!

Recommendation # 5: Public awareness campaign to educate drivers on dangers of driving while tired.

It's obvious that nobody learned from the 2001 Sussex bus accident because, as we now know, seven years later, in January 2008, absolutely no measures were ever implemented to help tired coaches transport children to out of town sporting events like the one our sons attended in Moncton that fatal night. We know because if the recommendations had been followed, there is no way the coach would have been behind the wheel after working a full day at the High School, driving to Moncton, coaching a game and then driving back to Bathurst in bad weather. He had enough to do just coaching the team. He should never have been put in that position!!

We've said it before and we'll say it again: we need a Van Angels law that ensures Class 2 drivers, professional drivers who drive yellow buses, transport our children to out of town events. They do it in Nova Scotia, why can't they do it here?

A teacher is not a professional driver and already has too much on his or her hands than to worry about driving all the way to out of town events on a dark night in bad weather.

It's bad enough New Brunswick's Coroners Act is 110 years old and we can't even have a lawyer cross examine witnesses, but how can we have faith in a Coroners Inquest when the recommendations of the 2001 Sussex bus crash were never followed?

Bus jury wants highway ramps upgraded; Safety first; INQUEST: Six recommendations made after testimony into Sussex bus crash
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Friday, October 11, 2002
Section: News
Byline: BY MAC TRUEMAN Telegraph-Journal

Recommendations of a coroner's jury investigating the April 27, 2001, tour bus accident near Sussex.

Install device on buses that alerts drivers when doors and windows tampered with or opened.

Seat-belts installed and enforced.

Rumble strips and flashing lights where speed reduction is considerable.

Rest periods for bus drivers in berth areas or off-vehicle sleeping accommodations.

Public awareness campaign to educate drivers on dangers of driving while tired.

Safety checks on windows and doors carried out at all rest stops and marked in drivers' log books.

Rules and safety procedures reviewed in advance with those in charge of trip. Drivers should review rules and safety procedures with passengers.The teacher in charge of the school trip that ended in the Sussex bus crash last year doesn't think seat-belt legislation will increase tour bus safety.

Roy Miller called the six recommendations made Thursday by a coroner's jury in Sussex "pretty reasonable." But Mr. Miller, who is school band director at Oak Hill Middle School in Newton, Mass., doesn't think their proposal to make seat- belt use mandatory in motor coaches would work with teens.

"If you had a chaperone in the aisle at every seat, then you could possibly enforce seat-belts on a bus with kids," he said. Otherwise, "I think it unlikely that kids would leave their seat-belts on for the duration of a long trip."

Mr. Miller commented at the conclusion of a four-day inquest into the deaths of Stephen Glidden, 12, Kayla Rosenberg, 13, Gregory Chan, 13, and Melissa Leung, 14. They were among 42 school band members and six chaperones travelling to a music festival in Halifax, N.S., when their bus took a wrong exit ramp at Sussex, skidded from the pavement and spilled on its side.

The four fatal victims were crushed beneath the side of the careening bus when the force of the crash threw them through a partly unlatched window.

The jury also recommended that motor coaches be equipped with devices that would alert the driver whenever a door, window or emergency hatch has been opened or tampered with.

The panel also wants rumble strips and flashing yellow lights to become the standard "where speed reduction is considerable" on highways.

Chief among their recommendations was a public awareness campaign to teach drivers about the dangers of driving while tired, and that cross-country drivers have mandatory rest periods either off the bus or in a separate sleeping berth aboard the vehicle.

The province's chief coroner will notify the agencies responsible for these changes, and in her annual report would review the progress of each agency in responding to the recommendations, deputy chief coroner Heather Harrison said.

"So, there is a public accountability, to see what has been done with them," she aid.

But Public Safety Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said seat-belt laws for motor coaches would be Ottawa's job, not the province's.

Transport Canada's has jurisdiction over motor coaches, and the National Safety Act regulates what manufactures build into these buses, she said.

"I think what we need to do now is sit down and have a look at the recommendations and see where there is a fit for us provincially and where there is a fit for us to interact with national organizations and the federal government."

As for a publicity campaign on the dangers of fatigue, she said she would have to review what safety campaigns the province already has underway.

Paul Ram said that when his Diamond Coach bought its first charter bus, the vendor told him that seat-belts had been taken out of Canadian buses after some passengers were trapped in a coach fire. But he favours revisiting the seat- belt issue.

"If anything can save lives, I am for that."

A separate sleeping compartment for the alternate driver may be a rare, but Mr. Ram says he knows it can be done, because he's done it.

For several chartered bus trips he ran to Florida last year, he built a plywood bunk room at the back of the coach to house the spare driver.

"The driver can close the door, and it is like a separate sleeping room." The door has to be kept shut if the driver is to get his sleep while en route, he said.

"Even if it is a bunk bed, if people are sitting there and they are talking and watching TV or listening to music or whatever they are doing, it has to be separate quarters."