FedEx Accident Investigation Looks at Highway Safety

This is part 3 of our series of blog posts looking at the April 10, 2014, fatal crash between a FedEx semitrailer and a charter bus that resulted in the loss of 10 lives, including 5 of the 43 students on the bus. Injuries and deaths were caused by the impact and the fire that engulfed both vehicles. It was a tragedy of immense proportions, prompting a federal investigation and several lawsuits against FedEx for personal injury and wrongful death.

Was the Design of the Highway a Factor?

After almost a year of investigations, the California Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the FedEx driver drove through the median towards oncoming traffic, hit a car and then the bus. The investigation found evidence that the FedEx driver was sleepy (possibly asleep at the wheel).

For more information, read our other articles in this series:

This article looks at the highway design and if it played a role in the crash. NTSB assembled a Highway Factors Investigative Group (HFIG) to obtain factual information related to the design and maintenance of the highway environment at the crash scene to “establish a foundation for evaluating whether the condition or design of the traffic facility contributed to or caused the accident.

The primary focus of this part of the investigation was the median that the double-wide rig crossed.

Should There Have Been a Barrier on Either Side of the Median?

This was a “median cross-over accident,” which means a vehicle crossed over the median and crashed into a vehicle on the other side. The most common causes and contributing factors for median cross-over accidents include driver fatigue, drug and alcohol impairment, distraction, and environmental conditions such as rain and snow, according to NTSB. Barriers can prevent a cross-over, and thereby serious injuries and fatalities.

In this case, the tractor-trailer was traveling southbound when it departed the pavement and entered the median, a “58-foot-wide gravel earthen median.” The median had no barriers, other than 3 to 4 foot Oleander shrubs. The highway shoulders did have rumble strips, which are meant to alert the driver if he or she runs off of the road.

Because in California there are published guidelines as to when a barrier should be erected, NTSB looked at the efficacy of these guidelines and whether they were followed in this case. To determine this, HFIG looked at the following:

  • the initial median design from the 1960s;
  • traffic counts, with a focus on large hauling trucks;
  • accident history;
  • information the state of California used to make a policy decision that median barrier protection was not warranted on this stretch of I-5.

In the 5 years prior to this accident, there were 2 cross-median fatal accidents in the 10-mile segment of I-5. In California, a median barrier does not need to be erected unless there are at least three fatal crashes at that stretch of road within a 5-year period.

Also, California has a formula that uses average daily traffic and median width to determine if there should be an evaluation as to the need for a median barrier. With less than 30,000 vehicles in daily traffic, the 58-foot-wide median was quite a bit wider than what would have prompted an evaluation.

Although the general traffic was under 30,000, 25% of that was semitrailer trucks.

Do You Have a Claim against FedEx?

If you or a loved one has been in a crash caused by a FedEx vehicle, you and others may have claims against the company for personal injury or wrongful death. Our law firm has recovered money for people like you.

Attorney Eric Hageman is one of our lead attorneys for these cases. He has the experience you are looking for because he has gone head-to-head with the FedEx legal team and won. You can click here now to contact Eric for a free consultation. We are not paid unless you win.

Source: Highway Factors Group Chairman’s Factual Report: Cross-Median Accident, Orland, California, April 10, 2014. National Transportation Safety Board, 2015.

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Category: Accidents
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