A National Traffic Safety Board report has concluded that onboard video systems – both continuous and event-based – can “provide valuable information for evaluating the circumstances leading to a crash,” if the cameras are positioned properly and if the systems are adequate for recording in low light.
NTSB looked at two specific crashes – one in 2012 involving a school bus in Port Lucie, Fla., and the 2011 crash of a motor coach near Kearney, Neb.
Although the report focused on buses, the board's recommendations also encompassed the trucking industry.
The school bus was equipped with a continuous-recoding system – meaning the video records continuously while the vehicle’s ignition is in the on position. (Many school bus operators use continuous systems to monitor student security, passenger and driver behavior.)
The motor coach involved in the Nebraska crash was equipped with an event-based recording system, which captures video immediately before, during and after an event such as a crash, hard-braking, or sudden lane departure.
While NTSB said both systems in the crashes studied provided valuable information, there were problems with camera placement, low-light recording and other issues. In the case of the school bus, the continuous-recording system, which was using four cameras, provided video from before, during and after the crash, but not all passenger seats were observable.
With the system deployed in the motor coach, the video provided video just prior to the collision, but not during or after due to damage the system sustained in the crash.
In its conclusions, NTSB said that both types of systems, in conjunction with a driver feedback program can provide long-term safety benefits.
In addition, NTSB said the use of a continuous video system in school buses that provides video of driver and passenger activity, seat-belt use and detailed injury data “can serve as the foundation for a multidisciplinary approach to improving transportation safety.”
As a result of its investigation, NTSB urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to included video information in their existing crash database – along with appropriate access controls and procedures for collecting and using video data.
The board also recommended that the American Trucking Association and various bus and motor coach associations urge their members to make sure that the onboard video systems they deploy can provide visibility of the driver and each occupant seating location as well as visibility forward of the vehicle. The board also recommended the systems have optimized frame rates and low-light recording capability.
Video system manufacturers were urged to develop installation guidelines and maintenance guidance for their systems and to publish these documents on their websites and in future owner’s manuals.
To find the safety report online, go to: http://ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Documents/SR1501.pdf.