Highway Accident Report

Adopted: January 31, 1973
OCTOBER 10, 1971

NTSB Number: HAR-73/01
NTIS Number: PB-216621


At 2:05 a.m., October 10, 1971, an intercity bus with 37 passengers was westbound from St. Louis to Springfield, Mo., in the right-hand lane of U. S. Route 66, a four-lane divided highway, 15 miles east of Marshfield, Mo., when it struck the left side of a station wagon with two female occupants. The station wagon had been observed just before the crash, executing an unorthodox movement at right angles to the highway, with its front facing south and, for part of the time, with its lights off. On impact, the station wagon rotated counterclockwise and slid about 90 feet westward onto the median. The driver and passenger, neither of whom was wearing available seatbelts, were ejected. The passenger was killed and the driver severely injured: both were under the influence of alcohol.

After impact, the bus rotating clockwise, skidded some 151 feet on the pavement, engaged a shallow drainage ditch beyond the highway shoulder, vaulted and overturned to its left (counterclockwise), and executed a one-and-one quarter roll. The bus came to rest on its left side about 288 feet from impact. Four bus passengers were fatally injured, including one of five persons ejected and two who were crushed by collapse of the roof structure down to their seats. All the other passengers were injured by being severely thrown about within the bus. Speed of the bus at impact was concluded to have been about 60 to 65 m.p.h.
A flash fire erupted at the station wagon on impact, but the fire did not continue long. The station wagon's fuel tank separated from the vehicle and traveled about 164 feet beyond the point of impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the crash was the unorthodox and unlawful maneuvering of the station wagon on a limited-access highway by a driver under the influence of alcohol, and the delayed evasive action by the busdriver.

A cause of the secondary bus crash (leading to rollover) was the lockup of the bus brakes, which prevented steering control after the initial crash.

Causes of the injuries and fatalities to bus occupants were localized critical failure of window columns, which caused loss of structural integrity of roof-support structure in a moderate speed rollover; the tumbling of passengers within the bus, which was permitted by the absence of any form of passenger restraint the ejection of passengers through windows which opened under structural distortion of the bus; and the presence of hard and unyielding interior bus components.
Contributing to the injuries of the two occupants of the station wagon was their failure to wear available seatbelts.


The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that:

1. The Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration institute appropriate rulemaking action to require all newly-constructed interstate-type buses to be equipped with approved occupant restraints, active or passive, for all seating positions in such buses. The Board recommended essentially this same action in four other accident reports released December 31, 1968, March 19, 1970, June 1, 1971, and November 1, 1971, respectively. Such rulemaking would carry out the expressed intent of the (then) National Highway Safety Bureau-later the NHTSA-in the "Preamble to Amendment to Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208," Docket 2-13, Notice 3, on September 30, 1970, by the Acting Director of that Bureau: "The extension of Standard No. 208 is based on the proposition that, as far as practicable, drivers and passengers in all types of vehicles should be afforded the means of protecting themselves from personal injury that seatbelts provide..." (Recommendation No. H-73-1)

2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expedite rulemaking under Docket 70-16 (MVSS 121) to improve the antilock braking capability of bus (and truck) braking systems. (Recommendation No. H-73-2)

3. The Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, Federal Highway Administration, review intercity bus design and the types of damage suffered in rollover accidents in an attempt to determine whether structural strength in the window areas may have been reduced in recent years in buses having very large side windows; and that BMCS prepare a rollover performance test, or other performance tests, for buses which can reveal the structural strength of buses in the areas stressed by rollover. (Recommendation No. H-73-3)

4. The manufacturers of intercity-type buses review their existing designs of buses having very large side windows to determine whether it is technically feasible to prevent critical localized structural failures and to increase the -general strength of the window area of buses: by the use of greater-strength window columns; by employing a larger number of continuous structural members through the window area; and by using smaller windows. (Recommendation No. 73-4)