A Bus, A Truck, An Intersection

FL 7-2-16 crash

Dateline: Wakulla County, Florida Panhandle

The bus and tractor-trailer were on fire, entangled in live power lines. First responders started pulling passengers from the bus, until they could do no more because of the flames. Fire trucks had to stand down until the power was shut off to the utility pole. By that time, the vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The driver of the tractor-trailer,  Gordon Sheets, 55 of Copiague, New York, was fatally injured in the July 2nd, 5:20 AM collision, when a bus loaded with farm-workers ran a stop sign and a flashing red light. Sheets was headed westbound on US-98 (the Coastal Highway), when his tractor collided with the southbound bus from Woodville Highway. Four on the bus succumbed to their injuries and another 20 were injured, including the bus driver who was hospitalized in critical condition. A passenger in the tractor-trailer was not injured said ABC News.

The collision remains under investigation by Florida Highway Patrol.

The One Critical Factor in Most Fatal Collisions

Failure to yield right of way is the one common factor in most fatal cashes. A driver can fail to yield right of way due to: missing visual cues as warning signs or other information indicating another vehicle’s intentions, not seeing an approaching vehicle, or sometimes by simply carelessness or negligence. Examples of a failure to yield right of way include:

  • a driver making a left turn fails to yield to oncoming traffic
  • a  driver enters the street from a private driveway or sideroad
  • a driver aggressively merges onto a highway. or
  • a driver does not heed a flashing yellow or red light, or yield or stop sign.

In the crash above, the bus was traveling a state-highway and perhaps did not expect to see an intersection that was controlled by a stop sign.

Every intersection carries an element of risk. The defensive driver needs to acknowledge this risk and modify their driving habits.

What to Do . . .

Over the years, however, there has been an ongoing controversy by defensive-driving experts on just exactly what should a defensive driver should be doing when approaching an intersection and what it is called.

Is it looking? As in . . . Look both ways — or Look left-right-left, or Look far ahead?

Is it scanning? As in . . . Scan the intersection, Scan the road, “Scan high ahead,” or Scan the mirrors every 3-5 seconds?

Is it checking? As in . . . Check your mirrors, Check both ways, or Check the intersection?

Is it watching? As in . . . Watch for cross-traffic or Watch for caution signs or Watch for other vehicles?

Whenever ideas fail, men invent words. Martin H. Fischer

Other visual technique concepts include: active searching,  selective visual skills (AAA), and visual selective attention (motor skills performance theory). 

All in all, good defensive driving involves the active acquisition of information. However it is understood, this is what we need to teach all drivers.

Thank you for reading this.