PHOENIX – Federal safety officials said on Thursday they would investigate an accident in which authorities said a fast-going tanker collided with seven passenger vehicles on a Phoenix freeway, killing four people and injuring at least nine.
The wreckage occurred Wednesday night after the tanker “did not slow down due to traffic jams,” the Arizona Department of Public Safety said in a statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending nine investigators to conduct a safety investigation into the crash in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Among the issues that NTSB investigators will investigate is whether the accident could have been avoided if the tanker was fitted with electronic safety devices, board spokesperson Chris O’Neil said. . “Automatic emergency braking is definitely something we want to look at,” he said.
Six of the nine people injured in the crash were taken to hospitals in critical condition, the Phoenix Fire Department said in a statement. The four men and two women were between 22 and 45 years old. Details of the four people killed were not immediately disclosed.
After the initial collisions, the tanker platform trailer separated and passed through the median wall of the freeway and ended up on its side in the oncoming lanes, the security department said. state public.
Authorities have ruled out the possibility that the truck driver is intoxicated, the department said. The truck driver has not been identified.
Currently, there is no federal requirement that semi-trailers be equipped with a forward collision warning or automatic emergency braking, although the systems are becoming common on small passenger vehicles. .
The systems use cameras and sometimes radars to see objects in front of a vehicle, and they warn the driver or slow down and even stop the vehicle if it is about to hit something.
O’Neil said investigators would determine whether the tanker had advanced safety equipment and, if so, how it behaved during the crash. If he didn’t have the systems, they will determine whether “collision avoidance technology would have mitigated the severity or prevented it altogether,” he said.
The NTSB, he said, investigated several crashes involving large trucks hitting stopped or slowed traffic. As early as 2015, the NTSB recommended that manufacturers immediately include electronic security systems as standard equipment. At the time, the agency said the systems could prevent or mitigate more than 80% of rear-end collisions that cause about 1,700 deaths and half a million injuries each year.
Twenty automakers representing 99% of new passenger vehicle sales in the United States signed a voluntary agreement with the government in 2016 to make functionality standard on all light vehicles by September 1, 2022, and many companies are making progress towards this goal.
O’Neil said the crash scene team included members experienced in road transport, road design, occupant protection, human performance, vehicle factors and technical reconstruction. of the accident.
Investigators will also try to determine if driver distraction played a role, he said.
“Our investigators will examine the people involved in the crash, the vehicles involved in the crash and the environment in which the crash occurred,” O’Neil said.
Investigators typically stay at the scene for five to ten days, and issue a preliminary report 30 to 90 days after completing their fieldwork. Investigations generally take between 12 and 24 months.