A 2016 highway accident in Kansas that killed six people and injured five vividly illustrates the need to implement safety improvements recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency says.

In that June 29 crash, a seven-passenger sport utility vehicle with 11 occupants was struck from behind by a semitractor-trailer on I-70 near Goodland, Kansas at about 2:15 in the morning. Survivors of the crash said they believed the SUV was traveling near the posted minimum speed limit of 40 mph while the striking semitractor-trailer was traveling near the posted maximum speed limit of 75 mph at the time of impact. 

Although the NTSB’s investigative brief on the tragedy did not result in new recommendations, Director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety Rob Molloy said investigation did emphasize the need to implement 15 NTSB safety recommendations to improve highway safety and to reduce the number and severity of highway crashes.

A "completely preventable crash"

“The causal and contributing factors to this tragic and completely preventable crash demonstrate why the issues of fatigue, occupant protection and collision avoidance are on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements,” said Molloy. “In this crash, a collision avoidance system, especially one capable of automatically applying the brakes, might have prevented this accident or at least lessened the severity of the crash.”

The NTSB determined that the semitractor-trailer driver’s failure to take effective action to avoid the crash, due to his fatigue and lack of expectancy to encounter the slow-moving SUV led to the crash. The SUV driver’s decision to continue traveling at a reduced speed on the highway without the use of flashing hazard lights contributed to the crash. The overloading of the SUV and the lack of a collision avoidance system on the truck contributed to the severity of the crash.

"The longer it takes..."

“Of the 315 open safety recommendations associated with the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, 15 relate to the issues identified in this crash investigation,” said Molloy. “Of the 39,339 transportation fatalities in 2016, highway fatalities accounted for 37,461 deaths, or 95 percent of all transportation fatalities in 2016. We view the implementation of these recommendations as vital to ensuring the safety of America’s transportation system. The longer it takes for NTSB safety recommendations to be implemented, the longer an identified safety need remains unaddressed, potentially threatening the safety of travelers and transportation workers.”

The highway accident brief is available online at https://goo.gl/sEgSxN and the public docket for the investigation is available at https://goo.gl/18PEo6.