Notre-Dame-de-Mésage english summary

On Sunday 22 July 2007 at about 09.20 a coach carrying Polish pilgrims was driving on the National Road No.85, known as the Route Napoléon, lost control of the brakes and left the road at the bottom of the Laffrey gradient, near Notre-Dame-de-Mésage. It was crushed below the bridge that crossed the river Romanche and burst into flames.
This accident caused the death of 26 people including the driver, a further 24 were taken to hospital and 12 of these required emergency treatment.

The two direct and immediate causes of the accident were, on the one hand, the poor condition of the coach’s braking system and on the other, inappropriate driving of the coach - driving too fast down a gradient that was banned for use by coaches and the improper use of the braking system.

Three other factors might also have had a part to pay in this accident or might have influenced its gravity :
- the absence of a suitable alarm to warn of a fault with the brake discs and the speed governor, which would have allowed the driver to stop the vehicle before the braking system completely broke down
- the use of a satellite navigation device on which the route shown used the Laffrey gradient
- the absence of a safety system on the gradient which would have limited the seriousness of the accident

An analysis of the causes and factors leading to the accident led us to make 11 recommendations of which
- 4 concerned signage and the checking/penalising system
- 3 concerned the training and awareness of HGV and PSV drivers driving on steep sections of road
- 2 concerned vehicles and alarms when the braking system fails
- 1 concerned GPS devices
- 1 concerned the safety infrastructure

In addition, this report provides an occasion to remind everyone of the need to include penalty points on licences in European discussions on the application of cross border checking/penalties and the training of all European drivers on the importance of the daily maintenance of a coach.

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