2013 Bay Bridge crash report released by NTSB

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Office of Highway Safety released its final report on the investigation of the July 19, 2013 crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It includes details about the crash as well as short-term and long-term plans for the bridge.

You may remember that a woman driving a 2007 Chrysler Sebring eastbound on the Route 50/301 near Annapolis, Md. and had slowed down her car for traffic past a toll plaza was struck from behind by a 2010 International truck-tractor. According to NTSB, the truck was traveling 47 mph at the time and pushed the Chrysler into a concrete barrier next to the right lane. The front of the Chrysler collided with a 2014 Mazda CX-5. The Chrysler was pushed up onto the barrier wall and rode along the top of it, before falling approximately 27 feet into the Chesapeake Bay, say NTSB officials.

RELATED STORY: Truck driver pleads guilty in Bay Bridge crash (http://bit.ly/1ouiowh)

The Chrysler came to rest between two bridge piers to the south of the eastbound span. The driver, Morgan Lake, was able to swim her way onto rocks.

VIDEO: Driver records Bay Bridge crash survivor in water

VIEW THE NTSB FINAL REPORT: http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/fulltext/HAB1401.html

The truck driver, Gabor Lovasz of Canada, later pleaded guilty to negligent driving, unsafe lane changing, failure to control vehicle speed to avoid a collision, and driving in excess of a reasonable and prudent speed.

The final report contains photos from the crash scene and detailed diagrams of the bridge as well as a timeline of events.

A probable cause is also shown:

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the July 19, 2013, crash on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was the failure of the truck tractor driver to slow for traffic due to his inattention to the forward roadway while looking in his side view mirror. Contributing to the crash were the truck driver's unfamiliarity with the area and lack of knowledge that traffic routinely slows on the eastbound span of the bridge after exiting the toll plaza and before entering the leftward curve. Contributing to the severity of the crash were the unusual collision dynamics that allowed for a passenger vehicle to be pushed over the barrier wall and into the water."

More importantly, perhaps, are the short-term and long-term plans for the bridge.

The Maryland Transportation Authority will implement a short-term action plan this spring, which includes requiring headlight use on both the eastbound and westbound spans at all times, making changes to speed limit signs and transitions areas, installing static signs with flashing lights for warning drivers about stopped vehicles during heavy traffic, installing "Your Speed Is" electronic signs on some locations of the bridge, and installing a "Do Not Tailgate" sign on the eastbound bridge approach to be illuminated during heavy traffic.

RELATED STORY: MDTA: $500,000 in Bay Bridge safety improvements (http://on.wusa9.com/1erjl5v)

MDTA is also studying the eastbound bridge span for deck rehabilitation since the deck is deteriorating, according to NTSB. NTSB writes:

"If a decision is made to proceed with improvements to the bridge deck, the MDTA would also upgrade the barrier system.

A nondestructive evaluation of the bridge deck was completed in April 2013. Destructive testing, including core samples of the bridge deck, is scheduled to begin in March 2014, with a final report anticipated by the end of the year.

The MDTA completed a task force report on traffic capacity across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in July 2006 and noted four zones in which a new crossing over the bay could be considered. A National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study would be required prior to initiating such a project. At the time of this report, funds have not been allocated to commission the NEPA study, estimated to cost $30–35 million. Construction costs for a new crossing are estimated to be $4 billion."

The MD Transportation Authority Executive Director Bruce W. Gartner released this written statement following the release of the report:

"The MDTA appreciates the thorough investigation of the July 19, 2013, crash conducted by the NTSB. We also thank Senator Barbara Mikulski, whose interest in the crash demonstrated her concern for motorists' safety. Similar to the MDTA Police and Maryland State Police joint investigation, NTSB's final report attributes the cause of the crash to driver inattention on the part of the commercial-vehicle operator. The NTSB's report underscores the immense responsibility of each and every driver when traveling the Bay Bridge. Please keep your eyes on the road, don't tailgate and put your cell phones away. In turn, motorists can be assured that the MDTA places their safety first at all of its bridges, tunnels and highways. Just last month we outlined $500,000 in safety upgrades for the Bay Bridge, including requiring vehicles to use their headlights at all times on the bridge."

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who wrote a letter to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman asking for an investigation into the safety of the bridge following the crash, had the following statement on Wednesday:

"I appreciate the NTSB's independent review and knowing the Maryland Transportation Authority is taking the appropriate steps to improve the bridge's safety in the short-term.

"The report is a reminder of the areas on the bridge that require complete driver awareness. This factual data will help state officials improve the bridge's safety for the upcoming season.

"But we can't sit back with a sigh of relief.

"Safety for Maryland's families and commuters is my top priority. So is making sure those first time motorist on the bridge are properly informed of their driving responsibilities.

"The state of Maryland must remain committed to improving the safety of the bridge in the long-term. I expect relentless follow-through when it comes to safety. Everyone, no matter their destination, should feel safe when they drive across the Bay Bridge.

"I want to personally thank Chairman Hersman for her dedicated service as the head of the NTSB for the last 10 years and congratulate her on her new position as President of the National Safety Council."


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