Highway Accident Report

Motorcoach Run-Off-the-Road and Rollover
U.S. Route 163
Mexican Hat, Utah
January 6, 2008

NTSB Number: HAR-09/01
NTIS Number: PB2009-916201
PDF Document (1.90 MB)

Executive Summary:

On January 6, 2008, about 3:15 p.m. mountain standard time, a 2007 Motor Coach Industries 56-passenger motorcoach with a driver and 52 passengers on board departed Telluride, Colorado, en route to Phoenix, Arizona, as part of a 17-motorcoach charter. The motorcoach passengers were returning from a 3-day ski trip. The normal route from Telluride to Phoenix along Colorado State Route 145 was closed due to snow, and the lead driver planned an alternate route that included U.S. Route 163/191 through Utah.

About 8:02 p.m., the motorcoach was traveling southbound, descending a 5.6-percent grade leading to a curve to the left, 1,800 feet north of milepost 29 on U.S. Route 163. The weather was cloudy, and the roadway was dry at the time of the accident. After entering the curve, the motorcoach departed the right side of the roadway at a shallow angle, striking the guardrail with the right-rear wheel and lower coach body about 61 feet before the end of the guardrail. The motorcoach traveled approximately 350 feet along the foreslope (portion of roadside sloping away from the roadway), with the right tires off the roadway. The back tires lost traction as the foreslope transitioned into the drainage ditch.

The motorcoach rotated in a counterclockwise direction as it descended an embankment. The motorcoach overturned, struck several rocks in a drainage ditch bed at the bottom of the embankment, and came to rest on its wheels. During the 360-degree rollover sequence, the roof of the motorcoach separated from the body, and 50 of the 53 occupants were ejected. As a result of this accident, 9 passengers were fatally injured, and 43 passengers and the driver received injuries ranging from minor to serious.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the driver’s diminished alertness due to inadequate sleep resulting from a combination of head congestion, problems acclimating to high altitude, and his sporadic use of his continuous positive airway pressure sleeping device during the accident trip. The driver’s state of fatigue affected his awareness of his vehicle’s excessive speed and lane position on a downhill mountain grade of a rural secondary road. Contributing to the accident’s severity was the lack of an adequate motorcoach occupant protection system, primarily due to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s delay in developing and promulgating standards to enhance the protection of motorcoach passengers.

Major safety issues identified by this accident investigation include driver fatigue, excessive vehicle speed, hours-of-service violations, motor carrier trip planning, motorcoach occupant protection, and emergency medical notification and response with regard to large motorcoaches traveling on rural roads. As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services, the Utah Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials, the American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach Association, and Arrow Stage Lines. The Safety Board also reiterates one previously issued recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.