NTSB Recommendations: A Conversation

Over the years, the National Transportation Safety Board has been on the ground examining the impact of crashes that involved school buses, in particular, those which resulted in one or more fatalities.  That work is consistent with the charter and purpose the Congress enumerated for the Board upon its establishment in law in 1967.

We’ve all heard about the NTSB on our nightly news in the wake of plane crashes or railroad accidents and pipeline disruptions. Hearing that NTSB is expected at an accident site lends a particular gravity to the accident story line.  We all pay attention when NTSB speaks out.

To be clear, NTSB is not a regulatory agency and has no authority to tell anyone what they must do.  The Board is, however, very credible and objective in its work and its focus on safety. We want them to be both: credible and objective, especially when it involves the future safety of our children.

Over the years, the NTSB has reviewed and offered recommendations regarding numerous school bus accidents.  In many of their reports, they targeted one or more recommendations to states or manufacturers as well as to NAPT and the other national associations.

The most recent recommendations, which are the primary subject of this article related to fatality accidents in Rochester, Indiana, in 2018, and in Decatur, Texas, in 2019. By means of this article, NAPT is satisfying our responsibility to address the recommendations and to help our members understand their implications.

In the Rochester IN, accident a school bus was stopped to pick up students at the designated school bus stop location. The driver of the school bus had waited before signaling to the students to cross the road. At the same time, a 2017 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, occupied by a 24-year-old driver and three passengers struck four children who were crossing the roadway in the early morning darkness. The school bus had its warning lights on, and the driver had deployed the stop arm.

In a post-crash interview, the driver of the pick-up truck reported seeing the flashing lights in the roadway ahead of her but believed that they were from a piece of farm equipment (a farm bordered the roadway). There is no roadway lighting at this location and the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour.

As a result of the crash, a 9-year-old female and two 6-year-old males were fatally injured. An 11-year-old male was transported by air ambulance to a medical facility in Fort Wayne, Indiana with serious injuries. The occupants of the school bus and the pickup truck were not injured in the crash. 

 In the Rochester case, NTSB recommended numerous actions to states and the national associations.  With specific reference to NAPT, the board recommended:


Remind your members to ensure that school transportation directors and others involved in evaluating school bus routes and stops complete training on how to assess the safety of school bus routes and stops, according to best industry practices.

NAPT will work with our Professional Growth committee and national training providers to make course offerings available to our members that address stop selection and review.  NAPT will also engage with the NCST on related issues at the appropriate time in the NCST processes for its 2025 gathering.


Advise your members to train their school bus drivers and students on crossing procedures, including the crossing hand signal and the danger signal, which are to be used when a student roadway crossing cannot be avoided.

NAPT will work with our Professional Growth committee and national training providers to make course offerings available to our members that address effective training for school bus drivers on loading and unloading procedures as well as best practices when crossings are necessary.


Urge your members to continue to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies to conduct educational and enforcement activities aimed at reducing illegal school bus passings.

NAPT will continue to work with our members and the law enforcement community to educate the public about illegal school bus passings.  We will work with our state affiliates who offer education programs and safety events related to illegal school bus passings. We will engage in education efforts using our own media and social media outlets to inform the public about school bus safety and the dangers of illegal school bus passing.

In the Decatur accident, a utility service truck was northbound on two-lane road at the same time that a transit-style school bus was traveling south, carrying 33 students home from school. The truck driver reported that he was looking in his side rear-vision mirrors when the truck’s right-side wheels departed the roadway and entered the earthen v-ditch adjacent to the rumble-milled shoulder. When the truck driver steered the truck back onto the roadway, the truck yawed counterclockwise and crossed into the southbound lane, colliding with the right side of the bus, fatally injuring the 53-year-old bus driver and a 7-year-old passenger seated directly behind the bus driver. Four other school bus passengers sustained serious injuries, 10 sustained minor injuries, and 18 were uninjured or their injury level was unknown. The truck driver was also uninjured. 

The school bus safety issues addressed in this report dealt with the lack of sufficient passenger protection measures on school buses.

In the Decatur case, the NTSB recommended actions to states and the national associations.  With specific reference to NAPT, the NTSB recommended:


Inform your members of the need to periodically review onboard video event recorder information to ensure that students engage in safe transportation behaviors on school buses, including sitting properly and wearing seat belts, when available, and that the members use this information to improve the bus safety training provided to drivers, students, and parents.

NAPT will work with our Professional Growth Committee and safety training entities to identify and offer education programs related to on-board student management and safety practices. NAPT will also reach out to the national PTA to offer parent education programs that would bolster student safety in accordance with the NTSB recommendation.

NAPT will also recommit itself to providing useful and timely information to our members as they approach decisions related to the use of seat belts on their school buses.