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Federal Investigation Blames Bad Lane Markings for Fatal California Bus Accident

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have determined that inadequate road markings were to blame for a devastating January 2016 Greyhound bus accident in San Jose that left two dead and a dozen others injured. According to a news report in the San Jose Mercury News, NTSB officials said the absence of reflective warning markers preceding a gore point separating the carpool lane connector to Highway 85 from 101, caused the bus driver to think he was in the connector lane when he was actually heading straight into a concrete barrier.

Agency officials say this January 19, 2016 crash should have been preventable because the barrier that the bus hit should have been visible even in bad weather, but it was not. Officials said the crash would have resulted in fewer deaths and injuries had the occupants worn their seatbelts. The crash that followed upended the bus and caused two women to be ejected. Both of those victims died on the spot. The driver was injured as were 12 bus passengers. The bus was carrying 21 people.

NTSB’s Bus Safety Recommendations

Caltrans is the government agency that is responsible for maintaining the state’s highways and has not commented on this investigation yet. NTSB’s news release added that Caltrans failed to “mark the gore with stripes or chevrons, which are often used to differentiate the gore from the roadway.” In addition, because of the darkness of the morning hour (the crash occurred at 6:30 a.m.) investigators say the driver likely didn’t see that he was heading straight for the barrier. Passengers had also told officials during the investigation that the driver was fatigued and drank coffee during a stop about 20 minutes prior to the crash.

NTSB officials have made several recommendations as a result of this investigation including the need for Caltrans to better track its work on roadway visibility projects, increase signage at the Highway 101-Highway 85 connector ramp and better distinguish the gore point with visible and tactile road markers. The agency has also recommended that Greyhound should do a better job of supervising drivers and better enforce seatbelt use on its vehicles.

Liability Issues

In this particular case, more than one party can be held liable for the victims’ injuries, damages and losses. For example, Caltrans could be held liable for the dangerous roadway condition. Greyhound could also be held accountable for not providing proper training to its employees and because the driver may have operated the vehicle while fatigued. In such cases, injured victims and their families would be well advised to contact an experienced California bus accident lawyer who can help them evaluate and pursue their all potential options.

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