Dardilly english summary

On 17 May 2003, a double-decker coach coming from Germany accidentally left the road on the A6 motorway at the North entrance of the city of Lyon.

The speed of the coach, its overturning and the presence of an overhang on the motorway explains the high death toll of 28 fatally injured and 46 seriously injured.

This accident happened at night and in rainy weather. It was without a doubt due to a low level of vigilance on the part of the coach driver. As far as vehicle behaviour is concerned, the coach driver’s low vigilance was made worse by the vehicle loading and its clearly deficient technical condition.

Main points to be kept in mind :

1) The primary cause of this accident clearly seems to be the low level of vigilance of the coach driver.

2) On top of poor weather conditions two aspects definitely compounded the situation : high speed, certainly in view of the fact that it was night time and raining, and the appalling technical condition of the vehicle, both potentially leading to and worsening any loss of control of a vehicle loaded to its capacity limit.

3) The double-deck configuration of this type of vehicle, with a high gravity centre - which was made even higher by the fact that most passengers were seated on the upper deck-, plus the presence of a large luggage holder at the rear, further emphasized potential factors of dynamic instability. On this matter, all the data collected during accidents involving similar vehicles and their overturning, demonstrates that double-decker coaches present specific risks and ought to be used in strict compliance with regulations (see bibliography).

Besides the use of seat-belts in coaches equipped with them - which became compulsory following this dreadful Dardilly accident-, three administrative or regulatory measures could lower the frequency of this type of accident or minimise its consequences.

Recommendation 1 : On a short term basis, since Directive 2000/30 has made technical inspection of vehicles on the roads possible, such inspections should be carried more frequently on coaches.
It is indeed the only way to check the state of foreign coaches or coaches transiting through France.
Generally speaking, during the inspection of coaches on the roads, particular attention should be given to vehicles with outside luggage carriers or trailers. Indeed, such contraptions too often allow for overloading which seriously jeopardizes the vehicle’s road behaviour.
The Directorate for Land Transport could launch such instructions and circulate them.

Recommendation 2 : On a longer term, Directives on the commissioning of vehicles seating over 22 people (Categories II and III) should be extended to all coaches, to require the fitting of an electronic route control device. Also, since double-decker coaches are at present excluded from the scope of superstructure resistance standards (overturning), the objective should be to have them incorporated into these standards.
The Safety and Road Traffic Directorate could initiate and take the necessary steps at an international level to obtain general enforcement of both these measures.

Recommendation 3 : Besides these two measures on the inspection and design of double-decker coaches, it would be fitting to state that the compulsory training for public transport vehicle drivers could usefully include a specialisation in "Driving a double-decker coach", since the dynamic characteristics of these said vehicles seem to require particular awareness and special skills.
The Land Transport Directorate could initiate the consultation process with the trade unions to achieve this.

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