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NTSB: Speed and Driver Fatigue Caused Utah Bus Crash

By David Goguen on April 21, 2009 1:11 PM

Federal investigators are holding a public meeting today on the cause of a 2008 Utah bus crash that killed nine people, and the agency's findings will only increase the recent scrutiny of bus travel safety and a push for stricter bus safety standards.

Today's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) public session is focused on a January 2008 accident that occurred near Mexican Hat, Utah, when a bus carrying 53 people ran off the road and rolled over, killing nine people and injuring 43 others.

The Associated Press reports that the NTSB has concluded today that the bus was traveling at 88 to 92 miles per hour at the time of the accident, and that driver fatigue was likely the "root cause" of the crash. According to the AP, "[the bus driver] reported having head congestion for three days prior to the accident, which was probably the result of altitude sickness or a cold and which likely interfered with his sleep, investigators said."

The Mexican Hat, UT crash is one of six deadly bus crashes to occur in the U.S. in the last few years, according to the Washington Post, which points out that 39 people died in commercial bus accidents in 2006, and that number increased to 51 in 2007.

Efforts at improving commercial bus safety have ramped up recently. According to the Post, "The NTSB's recommendations for new bus safety rules include improved window designs and stronger roofs," and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently begun crash tests of buses, although formal safety rules have yet to be written.   

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