Georgia DOT Partly Blamed for Atlanta Bus Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday that the probable cause of a March 2, 2007, bus crash on an elevated I-75 ramp in Atlanta was the motorcoach driver's mistaking an interstate high occupancy vehicle left exit ramp for an HOV through lane. The board also decided, however, that a contributing factor to the driver's mistake was the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation to install adequate traffic control devices to identify and distinguish the two HOV lanes.

Contributing to the severity of the accident was the motorcoach's lack of an adequate occupant protection system, NTSB said.

"This accident demonstrates the need for clear and consistent highway signage and traffic devices across the U.S. interstate system, in order to provide reliable guidance to all motorists on our nation's highways," said Mark Rosenker, NTSB's chairman. "In addition, the NTSB continues to call for a motorcoach passenger protection system which could reduce the number of fatalities and the severity of injuries suffered in accidents like this one in Atlanta."

The bus was a 2000 VanHool T2145 57-passenger motorcoach operated by Executive Coach Luxury Travel, Inc., and it was carrying 33 members of the Bluffton University, Ohio, baseball team. It left the HOV lane of I-75, drove up the ramp, overrode a bridge wall, and fell 19 feet onto the southbound lanes of the interstate. The seven fatalities were the driver, the driver's wife, and five passengers. Seven other occupants were seriously injured, and 21 passengers received minor injuries.

NTSB issued five recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration about the uniformity of specific requirements, standards, and criteria in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Five recommendations to the Georgia DOT concerned signage improvements.

A synopsis of the board's report is available at www.ntsb.gov/Publictn/2008/HAR0801.htm.

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