On July 25, 2002, about 2030 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 172P, N5268K, lost engine power and made a forced landing on a road near Creston, California. During the landing rollout, the airplane collided with a highway sign. A private individual owned and operated the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The private pilot and two passengers were not injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed Montgomery Field Airport (MYF), San Diego, California, about 1850, with a planned destination of Paso Robles Municipal Airport (PRB), Paso Robles, California. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rules (VFR) flight plan had been filed.

During a telephone interview with the National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC), the pilot stated that the airplane had recently come out of a 100-hour inspection. Prior to takeoff, he visually checked the fuel level by looking inside the tanks. He estimated that he had about 5 1/2 hours of fuel on board the airplane. He planned his cross-country to be about a 3-hour trip. About an hour before the engine quit he recalled the fuel gauges in the cockpit showing 1/2 tank of fuel on the right side, and a little under 1/2 tank of fuel on the left side. While en route, it was a dark night and he could not make out the terrain below. He approached the vicinity of Paso Robles and the engine quit. He attempted to restart the engine by following the procedures on the emergency checklist, but the engine would not start.

The pilot saw two headlights below, off to the right of his course. He maneuvered the airplane in that direction, while avoiding several power lines. He positioned the airplane over a two-lane road, ahead of the headlights. While touching down on the road, he noticed that several hundred feet ahead of him, the road had a 90-degree turn to the right with a corresponding 25-mile-an-hour road sign and yellow arrow signs. If he continued forward off the road, he would collide with a fence. He opted to take the turn and applied heavy brake pressure. The airplane's right wing collided with an arrow sign. The airplane came to rest about 12 miles southeast of PRB.

The pilot thought that the accident was a result of fuel exhaustion. He did not report any mechanical problems with the airplane prior to the accident.

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