On Sunday, January 5, 2020, Pennsylvania saw, first-hand, how dangerous slick road conditions can be — especially for large buses and trucks.
According to ABC News, a bus full of foreign tourists lost control on Interstate-76 near New Stanton while traveling from New Jersey to Ohio. The crash reportedly occurred around 3:40 a.m., when temperatures had dipped below freezing. Weather conditions at the time of the crash included light snow and fog.
State police report that the bus was traveling down a hill and lost control while trying to negotiate a corner. The bus then went up an embankment and rolled over before being struck by two semi-trucks. Adding to the catastrophe, a third semi-truck and a smaller passenger car collided with the three vehicles.
A passenger on the bus, however, recalled more details from the incident. The passenger told ABC News that the bus driver attempted to pass a FedEx truck at an estimated 70 mph before losing control.
'I don’t know why he was going so fast'
"I’m going to be honest with you, I believe the driver was driving recklessly the entire time honestly," said the passenger. "I felt him swerving in and out of lanes. I felt him going, cutting off cars and stuff. I don’t know why he was going so fast. I don’t know why he felt like he had to rush. I felt like he was testing his luck, he was testing our luck, and then his luck ran out and so did five other people's."
An aerial video released by Action News 4 in Pittsburgh shows the devastating crash scene.
After emergency crews responded, the turnpike was closed in both directions for several hours. At least 36 people — two of whom were in critical condition — were treated at nearby hospitals.
Five people were killed in the incident, including the bus driver, two bus passengers, and two UPS drivers.
Just before the winter season arrived, we warned that conditions would get slippery. We're not even half-way through the season and our roadways have already been blanketed with several inches of snow and ice.
Was the bus driver traveling too fast for conditions?
The bus passenger who spoke to ABC News estimated that the bus driver was traveling at 70 mph, which is the maximum speed limit on all Pennsylvania turnpikes. While he may have complied with the posted speed limit, he was driving too fast for the conditions at that time.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a study in 2007 dubbed the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. The study found that driving too fast for conditions was one of the leading causes of crashes involving large trucks. The same concept may also apply to large tour buses — given their size and weight.
The FMCSA suggests that anyone operating a large truck or bus should reduce their speed by one-third on wet roads, and by half during winter weather conditions. For example: in this case, the speed limit on I-76 is 70 mph. Since temperatures were below freezing, snow was falling, and visibility was reduced by fog, the driver should have slowed down to about 35 mph in order to protect the passengers.
What are my legal rights if I'm hurt in an accident?
Whether you are a bus passenger or occupant of another vehicle, knowing what course of action to take after a crash can be confusing. In this case, the bus was owned and operated by a private company. The company likely carries an insurance policy with a high premium. What's worse, a crash like this involves multiple parties and multiple insurance companies.
It will take an attorney with real investigative experience and a wealth of legal knowledge to help you sort things out. A truck accident attorney at the Law Offices of Edward P. McNelis — based in Hazleton, PA — can do just that and get results.
Attorney Edward P. McNelis has advocated for crash victims throughout northeastern Pennsylvania for nearly 40 years. To get started on your claim, contact us online or call our Hazleton office at (570) 455-6335.