Bonnac-la-Côte english summary
At around 12:45 on Saturday 1 August 2009 a minibus travelling on the A20 motorway on the north-south carriageway, near Bonnac-la-Côte (Haute-Vienne), crossed the highway, hit one car, crossed the central reservation and then hit two other vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.
The driver, who was carrying 8 fare-paying passengers, had been working as an unlicensed public transport provider for over 10 years ; his low-cost cab licence having been withdrawn.
This accident resulted in the deaths of 5 people, 4 of whom were in the minibus, and 8 people were injured, 3 seriously.
The direct and immediate cause of the accident was lack of attention by the minibus driver who was fiddling with his mobile phone ; he did not notice the steady swerving of his vehicle onto the hard shoulder, then reacted too suddenly which triggered the loss of control of the vehicle.
Two factors contributed to this loss of control :
the excessive speed of the minibus which was travelling at 110 km/h, although it was pulling a trailer and had a gross vehicle weight including tow of over 3.5 tons which required a maximum speed of 90 km/h ;
the poor condition of the front axle assembly, which had excessive play in its wheels and shock absorbers that were unusable.
In addition, the number and complexity of contractor statutes affecting public road transport with vehicles of 9 or more seats could have played a role in not promoting proper professional supervision and roadworthiness checks on the vehicle.
The number of casualties was aggravated by the fact that the minibus passengers were not wearing seat belts.
Analysis of factors responsible for the accident led BEA-TT to make three recommendations :
the first concerning raising the awareness of users and law enforcement agencies to speed restrictions for cars towing trailers ;
the second concerning the frequency of technical inspections for light public transport vehicles travelling long distances ;
the third concerning checks on the real effectiveness of shock absorbers, at the technical inspection.
In addition, this report is an opportunity to invite the public authorities to make users aware of the dangers of using mobile phones while driving, even with a hands free kit, and to clarify the contractor statutes concerning regular public passenger transport with vehicles of 9 seats or more.
It is also an opportunity to reiterate the importance of the systematic wearing of seat belts.