Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board say confusing highway signs, driver error and a lack of passenger safety features contributed to the deaths of the five college baseball players in the Atlanta bus crash last year. The findings on the crash, which also killed the bus driver and his wife, are in a report by the Board’s investigators. According to the investigators, the bus driver thought he was getting on an HOV lane when he drove onto an elevated exit ramp, running through a stop sign at highway speed and hurtling from an overpass onto the interstate below. The March 2nd crash killed five members of Ohio’s Bluffton University baseball team and injured 28 others.
The NTSB investigator said Georgia officials changed the layout of the signs after having trouble with their mounting. The change deviated from federal guidance about placement of certain exit signs to make them more clear but the change did not amount to a violation of federal regulations, which allow for some exceptions. Nine accidents have occurred at the site between 1997 and 2007, including three fatal collisions. The drivers in all of the crashes were from outside the Atlanta area and therefore not familiar with the area. Anybody who has driven there knows that the interstates in the Atlanta area are extremely busy with a tremendous amount of traffic. NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker observed:
This was an accident that didn’t have to happen. Had the appropriate investigation been done at the state level we might not be here today.
Investigators also said the 65-year-old bus driver, who had a good driving record, was partly at fault. He had been driving for only an hour before the early-morning crash. But his medical certificate, which is required by law, had expired. The driver also had several risk factors for sleep apnea. Still, the investigators found no evidence that medical problems contributed to the crash. Instead, the driver “missed what route guidance was available,” according to an investigator, who noted that 20 million drivers have successfully navigated the exit over ten years. The driver didn’t decrease his speed as he came up the exit ramp, despite two signs notifying drivers of a stop ahead.
Parents of several of the crash victims have called for stronger regulations on bus safety, including a need for more driver training, stronger roofs, shatterproof window glazing and mandatory seat belts. The NTSB has made similar recommendations dating back to 1968, but the recommendations have never made it into law. I can say from experience that all of the recommendations by the parents are needed.
Source: Associated Press
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