Highway Accident Report

Adopted: September 16, 1971
TRUCK AUTOMOBILE UNDERRIDE COLLISION
ON INTERSTATE ROUTE I-495
NEAR MARYLAND ROUTE 450,
NEW CARROLLTON, MARYLAND
JUNE 19, 1970

NTSB Number: HAR-71/09
NTIS Number: PB-204474


SYNOPSIS

At approximately 11:20 a.m. on June 19, 1970, a 1967 Ford Mustang, occupied by two young men, skidded into and under the rear end of a heavily loaded 1965 Ford flatbed truck, which was stopped in the middle of the three northbound lanes on Interstate 1-495, just north of Maryland Route 450 near New Carrollton, Maryland. The two occupants of the automobile died as a result of the injuries received in the collision.

The truck, traveling north in the right (slow) lane on 1-495, was carrying a load of concrete pipe. The engine hood was held closed by a piece of baling wire in lieu of the broken hood latch. Suddenly the baling wire broke, allowing the hood to fly up in front of the windshield. The driver, unable to see where he was going, applied the brakes firmly, pulled into the middle lane, and stopped the truck. The automobile hit the rear of the truck.

The road was dry and the weather was clear and sunny. There were no view obstructions other than the vehicles on the highway.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this rearend underride collision was the stopping of a truck in a high-speed traffic lane by an untrained driver operating an unsafe truck with a makeshift hood fastener, which failed and allowed the hood to obstruct the driver's forward view. The driver of a following automobile was not warned by the truck's emergency flasher lights due to a faulty light switch, and the driver's attempt to stop was unsuccessful.

The fatalities in this collision were caused by the absence of any form of rear-end crash protection on the truck, which permitted the automobile to underride the high frame of the truck and allowed the truck frame to enter the passenger compartment through the windshield, nullifying the intended protective effect of the occupants' fastened seat belts.

Contributing factors to this accident were the general neglect by the operating company of maintenance, and other requirements of the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and insufficient manpower in the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, Federal Highway Administration, to enforce the regulations.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that:

1. The Commonwealth of Virginia (and any other State not having such provisions) consider the revision of its Vehicle Inspection Code, and procedures to permit the rejection of any vehicle on the basis of any specific incomplete or failed condition which is unsafe, apart from the specific items now listed in the Inspection Code and procedures.

2. The State of Maryland (and any other State not having such provisions) consider the adoption of a provision in its State Motor Vehicle Code to authorize State or local police to remove from the highway any vehicle found to be in unsafe condition, regardless of the State of registration of such vehicle.

3. The Commonwealth of Virginia (and any other State not having such requirements) revise its Motor Vehicle Inspection Standards to bring them into conformance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Highway Program Standard No. 1, Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection.

4. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, reinstate its proposed rulemaking to establish a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for new buses, trucks, trailers, and combinations in regard to the use of energy-absorbing underride protection devices of the type defined in NHTSA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Docket 1-11. Alternatively, NHTSA should determine whether there is a practical plan for standards of voluntary crash protection equipment to be applied, by which occupants of other vehicles could safeguard themselves against the consequences of striking vehicles having high frames which are certain to be underridden.
Such a determination should include the question of whether it is more costly to place protection equipment on smaller numbers of high-framed trucks (or trailers) or on the large population of passenger cars.

5. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiate an additional effort to develop Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for bumper protection of motor vehicles to insure predictable and compatible crash performance between vehicles of considerable difference in size and weight.

6. In recognition of the existing manpower limitations in the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Transportation seek authorization and appropriations from the Congress to expand the strength and operations of said Bureau to enable it to enforce the regulations, commensurate with the public's right to safe travel on the Nation's highways.