Highway Accident Report

Collision of CSXT Freight Train
and Murray County School
District School Bus
at Railroad/Highway
Grade Crossing
Conasauga, Tennessee
March 28, 2000

NTSB Number HAR-01/03
NTIS Number PB2001-916203
PDF Document(1.5MB)

Abstract: On March 28, 2000, about 6:40 a.m. (sunrise was at 6:33 a.m.), a CSX Transportation, Inc., freight train traveling 51 mph struck the passenger side of a Murray County, Georgia, School District school bus at a railroad/highway grade crossing near Conasauga, Tennessee. The accident occurred as the school bus was crossing the tracks at a speed of approximately 15 mph. During the accident sequence, the driver and three children were ejected. Two ejected passengers received serious injuries and one was fatally injured. The driver, who had been wearing a lap/shoulder belt that broke during the crash sequence, received minor injuries. Of the four passengers who remained inside the bus, two were fatally injured, one sustained serious injuries, and one, who was restrained by a lap belt, received minor injuries. The two train crewmembers were not injured. The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the collision was the school bus  driver's failure to stop before traversing the railroad/highway grade crossing. Contributing to the accident was the Murray County, Georgia, School District's failure to monitor busdriver performance and its lack of school bus route planning to identify hazards on school bus routes and to eliminate the necessity of crossing railroad tracks. Contributing to the injuries of the school bus passengers were incomplete compartmentalization and a lack of energy-absorbing material on interior surfaces.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are the busdrive's performance; school district oversight, including busdriver monitoring and evaluation procedures and bus routing; passive grade crossing safety, including previous initiatives related to passive grade crossing and school bus safety; and occupant kinematics and survival factors.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, the Georgia Department of Education, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, and the school bus manufacturers. The Safety Board also reiterates a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Transportation.