Highway Accident Report

Adopted: February 10, 1971
NOVEMBER 24, 1969

NTSB Number: HAR-71/04
NTIS Number: PB-199380


At 5:15 a.m., e.s.t., on November 24, 1969, a scheduled interstate bus carrying 27 passengers was traveling south on lndiana Route 57, in a dense, freezing fog and complete darkness, at 45 miles per hour. While rounding a 3 degree curve to the right, and approaching the intersection of County Road 125-S (Oatsville Road), 5.6 miles south of Petersburg, Indiana, the busdriver saw headlights of a car which he thought was entering Route 57 from the west and coming toward him. He steered the bus to the right and applied the brakes sharply. However, the car was standing on County Road 125-S, waiting to enter Route 57 from the west. The bus swerved clockwise, skidded sideways and struck the car broadside. The car was pushed some 110 feet south onto Route 57. The bus continued to slide sideways in a southwesterly direction, and rolled over 270 degrees onto a turfed embankment. No fire ensued.

Neither the busdriver nor any of the passengers were injured during the impact with the car. However, the driver and all passengers were injured during the bus rollover: a female infant passenger was ejected and fatally injured. Only three of the passengers sustained serious injuries. The driver of the car (its only occupant) was slightly injured.

The Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was that the busdriver misjudged the location of the automobile because of the illusion created by the fog. Contributing factors were the excessive speed of the bus in dense fog on a wet road and the geometries of the intersection which compounded the illusory effects of the fog.


The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that:

1. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) expand its rulemaking concerning section 393.93 (seat belts) of the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in Part 393 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations to require in all interstate buses the installation of occupant restraints, active or passive, that conform to the Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 209. The Board recommended this in its accident report released December 31, 1968, entitled "Interstate Bus-Auto Collision near Baker, California," and recommended it again in its accident report released March 19, 1970, entitled "Chartered Interstate Bus Crash Interstate 1-80S near Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania."

In the Board's view, a decision to make available suitable restraints which would reduce injuries is not dependent upon a showing that all passengers would use them, nor should it be limited by the fact that past bus passenger seat designs do not accommodate the lap belt type of restraint.

2. The National Highway Safety Bureau, in the development of its rulemaking related to Docket 2-11, Bus Seats, include the requirement for the installation of seat belt assemblies as well as seat belt anchorages for interstate buses.

3. The Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in their rulemaking as recommended above, include the requirement that occupants of interstate buses be advised both by a "Fasten Seat Belt" illuminated sign and by notification by the driver, to fasten seat belts.

4. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study the feasibility and practicality of a standard for passenger buses requiring that overhead surfaces which include roof linings, moldings, parcel or luggage shelves, edges, and support hardware be designed so as to reduce or prevent direct contact injuries in rollover and upset accidents, and that such areas resist separation or fracture of a type which would expose edges to passengers. Such protection is of particular importance in the absence of passenger restraints not currently required.

5. The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances set a high priority on the development of more definitive criteria in the Basic Speed Rule (11-801 BASIC RULE) of the Uniform Vehicle Code to provide a guide for motorists: (1) as a basis for evaluating the degree of hazard presented by adverse environment factors (such as fog, smoke, ice, rain, traffic), and (2) to determine what is the appropriate (safe) vehicle speed under conditions present.

6. The International Association of Chiefs of Police use its influence and professional resources to redirect the attention of law enforcement agencies to the basic speed law (as it is set forth in the 1964 IACP Resolution D-19-20, of the Highway Safety Policies for Police Executives). The Association urge an aggressive enforcement program against violators of speed-limit laws, with special emphasis on the basic speed law.

7. The National Association of Motor Bus Owners use its influence and professional resources to urge its members to adopt, and disseminate in writing, a policy concerning the operation of buses during inclement weather such as stressing safety over the maintenance of schedules. Busdrivers should be instructed to drive their buses at a speed that is appropriate and safe as dictated by the environmental conditions, even though it means that schedules cannot be maintained.

8. The Indiana State Highway Commission install traffic control signs and markings corresponding with the standards set forth in the "Manual of Uniform Traffic Controls and Devices for Streets and Highways" on County Road 125-S (Oatsville Road), at both its east and west approaches to the intersection of Indiana State Route 57, as well as all other county roads.

9. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety of FHWA study the circumstances of this accident and consider the desirability of adding the requirement for side underride protection. Reference is made to NHTSA proposed rulemaking on Rear Underride Protection, Trucks and trailers (Docket No. 1-1 1, Notices 5 and 6), and to BMCS Safety Regulation 393-86, Rear End Protection.