Dramatic dashcam video of bus crash raises questions about who was at fault

Were police wrong to charge the driver of a commuter bus in the wake of it colliding with a school bus?  It’s one of two questions being extensively analyzed following the new release of dramatic dashboard cam and interior cam video of the January 10th crash.  The other issue in question is the safety of the configuration of the highway where the collision took place.

The dash cam also had a microphone, and the audio that accompanied the video of the crash helps to thoroughly tell the story of what happened.  Passengers screamed as the mini school bus and Academy Bus commuter coach made impact on Route 9 North at  Acadia Lane.  It’s a side street from Route 9, onto which the school bus had started to turn seconds before impact.

MomentofCrash

The Academy Bus commuter coach was equipped with an internal camera as well, which was pointed at the driver, Daniel Jean Pierre.  Passengers were also visible in the internal camera video.  The shock and horror are visible in their and Pierre’s facial expressions and gestures as the bus makes impact with the school bus, then goes on to knock over a roadway sign and ram into a tree, where the commuter bus came to a rest, with Pierre’s legs pinned, and 19 passengers hurt as well, some badly.

After carrying out an investigation, police charged Pierre with careless driving and improper passing.  However, one safe driving expert, Joe Carella of DriveSafe, viewed the videos and concluded that the charges are unfounded.

“When the school bus driver came out [from the right traffic lane next to the bus lane], he never saw the bus, the Academy bus,” said the 40-year veteran safe driving instructor at an institution that itself trains driving instructors.  “That school bus driver should have seen that bus coming,” said Carella.  “The [commuter bus] had nowhere to go.”

By contrast, the mayor of Old Bridge, whose board of education owns the school bus that crashed, did not dispute the findings of traffic investigators.  “The school bus driver had the right to make the right turn,” Mayor Owen Henry told PIX11 News.

Even though the mayor and the road safety expert disagree on who is at fault in the crash, they agree on one very important aspect of the situation.  “Safety will be our number one priority,” Mayor Henry said, regarding next steps his town will take regarding the highway where the crash took place, Route 9.

School Bus Crash

The Academy bus had been driving northbound on Route 9 on the shoulder, which had been paved as a bus lane in 2006.  The commuter bus was moving at 51 miles per hour just before impact, according to the information its onboard equipment recorded.  The zone in which it had been traveling just before the crash has a posted  50 miles per hour limit.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation created the bus lane seven years ago, but since the crash last month, it has shut it off, allowing only cars to use it to turn onto side streets.  NJDOT spokesperson Joe Dee said, in a phone interview with PIX11 News, that his agency had failed before creating the bus lane in 2006 to enact what’s called a traffic regulation order.

That order provides opportunities for the public to express its concerns about roadway changes to the DOT.  Now, seven years later, NJDOT is finally enacting that order and, based on input it receives from commuters and residents, will determine after March 3rd what measures it should take to improve the safety of the shoulder bus lane, or if the lane should be reopened at all.

The road safety expert, who is a veteran race car driver in addition to having trained driving instructors for four decades, was adamant that changes to the roadway have to be made before any buses are allowed to use the shoulder lane again.

“Whoever [created it], DOT or whoever, I think they need to rethink it.  It’s an accident waiting to happen.  That’s the best way to put it.”

15 comments

  • Ariel

    I believe it was the school bus fault. I believe that driver of the school bus is wrong. He should have seen him coming but also the driver who crashed into the school bus should has considered that school bus was making a right turn. But you also can't just slow down a big bus like that in a hurry,.

  • Jriver20

    I think the stay is at fault also for having a solid line only for busses. Also I am confused, isn't the school buss considered a "bus" why wasn't the bus within the bus lane. I think the city is at fault here for placing solid line mark as bus only in a place that clearly people need to get off or turn. But I am sure they will never agree to that, and used the Post Office as an example of having the right of way.

  • OklahomaWX

    The school bus was technically at fault for making an improper lane change (not yielding to traffic). That said, the setup is the direct result of poor engineering/legislation practices and thus the accident should be considered "no fault" for each of the parties. The bus lane seems like a perfectly good waste of a traffic lane and probably contributes more to traffic congestion, pollution, and lost hours than it helps through encouraging people to use alternative transportation. This is a case of good intentions (having a special-use lane to reduce conflicts between buses and ordinary traffic) having unforeseen consequences. We learn, we correct,. we move on.

  • Red88Sonya

    That road looks like a mess! Even though the road needs to be changed drastically the school bus clearly did not check to see it was safe to turn. It was negligence on school bus driver all the way. That road looks like a death trap though, some genius designed that!

  • James

    I just seen this story on CNN, and I am here in California. The school bus driver is 100% at fault, and you can see clearly on the video. The school bus driver is at fault, and fail to look at his right side mirror for a safe right turn. Looks like a lot of passengers that were hurt, will be at court soon!

  • Norm

    This was bound to happen. No one mentioned that the speed limit IN THE BUS LANE is 35 MPH. Had the bus not been traveling 16 miles over the speed limit, this would not have happened. Also, the bus lane is for commuter buses ONLY. School buses are excluded.

  • Daniel

    WOW, the only one at fault is the engineer(s) that designed this road.

    What a mess, just looking at the load and speed there is NO way a surface turn should have been allowed.

    That intersection needs to be blocked out, neither bus driver is at fault.

    OR

    That lane can be used as a thoroughfare lane for multi person transport with preemptive controls.

    Shame on the mayor, the cops who charged the bus driver and city staff that allowed this to go on

    Kudos and a major shout out to the designers of both buses.

  • jon

    I see the problem here. The bus lane also needs to be the turning lane for vehicles making a right hand turn. The school bus driver should have gotten in the bus lane before making a right hand turn. The school bus driver should have seen the commuter bus in his right mirror first before turning. The commuter bus driver didn't have sufficient time to react to a vehicle turning across his lane in a 50mph speed zone. If the school bus driver had entered the bus lane before turning, the commuter bus would have seen the school bus wanting to turn and would have slowed down.

  • ventura airporter

    Bus drivers are now not much serious about there driving. I feel such things. Bus operators are starting there bus in late and to adjust their time they running it rapidly or what one can say, they drive it rashly. It causes maximum problems to the passengers. The buses are facing accidents in numbers due to these types of mistakes.

  • Airport Taxi

    Sound very informative and awesome to me because it contains huge information of bus services which can makes a person conscious. Actually this writeup may come to help us more. Thanks and inform like this…

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