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October 1, 2014

Distracted Driving Played a Role in 2013 Bridge Collapse, Board Says

The National Transportation Safety Board reported Tuesday that distracted driving by a pilot/escort driver leading a truck contributed to the accident that caused the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge across the Skagit River in Washington State last year.

On May 23, 2103, a truck carrying an oversized load struck the top of the bridge and triggered the collapse which shut down the main traffic route between Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

“The pilot/escort vehicle driver was distracted by her hands-free cell phone conversation, which reduced her attention to her escort duties,” the NTSB report said.

It recommended that states “ban the nonemergency use by pilot/escort vehicle drivers of portable electronic devices” except to communicate hazard-related information to the escorted vehicle.

The safety board also found the driver of the pilot vehicle failed to fulfill her duties by “not communicating any information about the narrow lane widths on the bridge or the reduced overhead clearance in the right lane of travel” to the oversize truck driver before they reached the bridge.

The NTSB report also cited “insufficient route planning” by the trucking company which owned the truck.

It also pinned some blame on the state Department of Transportation for what it called “inadequate evaluation of oversize load permit requests” and “no provision of low-clearance warning signs in advance of the bridge.”

The NTSB said that protecting bridge infrastructure is “too vital a state concern” to leave “the responsibility for assessing the risk associated with the transportation of oversize loads entirely with the motor carrier.”

And it implied that the state’s permitting process is too lax because it “enables a carrier to self-issue a permit via an online procedure, without engaging the state in any technical review of the requested permit….”

It also recommended that federal officials work with state transportation departments “to include a requirement for low-clearance signage for highway structures that cross over a roadway.”

  • odys

    You know that all cell phone service in a moving car can be stopped by the operators. The cell phones have the ability to provide horizontal velocity to the network. So if the industry wanted to, distracted driving due to cell phones can be completely eliminated.

  • Joanna bo

    huh?
    means every time I travel as a passenger I cannot make a phone call because my phone is moving?
    so being a distracted passenger can be completely eliminated?

  • David Moore

    What a load of manure, one government agency covering the backside of another government agency. The driver of the lead car had no advanced warning about the low height. The driver would have seen the sign posted on the bridge, as she drove past it. The truck with the oversized load would have been seconds behind her, and would have had to slam on the brakes. No advanced warning means no realistic chance to stop before it is too late. The owner of the company doing the transporting, should have known the height of every bridge beforehand. The driver of the pilot car makes no decisions about the route. The driver of the pilot car, couldn’t tell the truck driver the hazard, because the geniuses in the transportation department, did not have any warning sign in place BEFORE coming to the bridge. Distracted driving? More like incompetent government!

  • Barb R

    A lot of states are the ones who issue the route the truck has to take when they move oversize loads, etc…we had to wait for hours for the state of Indiana to issue the route we had to take to move a mobile home from Indiana, to a KY lake…because they had to clear the route with KY too…it took us miles out of the way…too sad about this one. No one wants to take the blame possibly for a bad bridge situation in the first place?

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