Motorcoach Override of Elevated Exit Ramp
March 2, 2007
NTSB Number HAR-08/01
NTIS Number PB2008-916201
PDF Document(2.2 MB)
About 5:38 a.m. eastern standard time on Friday, March 2, 2007, a 2000 VanHool T2145 57-passenger motorcoach operated by Executive Coach Luxury Travel, Inc., transporting 33 members of the Bluffton University baseball team, the driver, and his wife, was traveling south on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia. The motorcoach had departed from the university, about 60 miles southwest of Toledo, Ohio, about 7:00 p.m. the previous day and was en route to a competition in Sarasota, Florida. When the original driver had stopped in Adairsville, Georgia, approximately halfway through the 18-hour trip, the 65‑year‑old relief driver, accompanied by his wife, boarded the motorcoach and began driving at 4:30 a.m. to complete the trip to Florida. The relief driver had driven approximately 54 miles and, according to witnesses, was in the southbound high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane at milepost 250 when the motorcoach departed the interstate, traveling at highway speed, onto the HOV-only left exit ramp to Northside Drive.
The exit ramp came to an end at the stop sign-controlled T-intersection with Northside Drive. As the motorcoach entered the intersection at an estimated speed of 50 to 60 mph, the driver steered to the right and collided with the reinforced portland cement concrete bridge wall and chain-link security fence located along the southern edge of the eastbound lanes of the overpass. The motorcoach then overrode the bridge rail, rotated clockwise, and fell 19 feet onto the southbound lanes of the interstate. The motorcoach came to rest on its left side (driver’s side), perpendicular to the southbound lanes of Interstate 75. Two southbound passenger vehicles received minor damage from debris as the motorcoach fell onto Interstate 75; none of the passenger vehicle occupants were injured. Seven motorcoach occupants were killed: the driver, the driver’s wife, and five passengers. Seven other passengers received serious injuries, and 21 passengers received minor injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the motorcoach driver’s mistaking the HOV-only left exit ramp to Northside Drive for the southbound Interstate 75 HOV through lane. Contributing to the accident driver’s route mistake was the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation to install adequate traffic control devices to identify the separation and divergence of the Northside Drive HOV-only left exit ramp from the southbound Interstate 75 HOV through lane. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the motorcoach’s lack of an adequate occupant protection system.
Major safety issues identified in this accident include inadequate HOV traffic control devices, inadequate motor carrier driver oversight, lack of event data recorders on motorcoaches, and lack of motorcoach occupant protection. As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration and to the Georgia Department of Transportation. The Safety Board also reiterates four recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.