Highway Accident Report

Adopted: September 14, 1978
JUNE 20, 1977

NTSB Number: HAR-78/05
NTIS Number: PB-287572/AS


By 3:05 p.m., e.d.t., on June 20, 1977, traffic had backed up and stopped in the right lane of I-285, eastbound, just south of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, and west of a construction zone located on connecting I-75, southbound. An eastbound Cates Trucking, Inc., tractor-semitrailer combination vehicle approached the standing traffic between 35 and 45 mph, and collided with and overrode the last automobile in the queue. The automobile was pushed into the vehicle ahead, and two other vehicles to its front were subsequently involved. No fire ensued. Four persons in the automobile were killed, and one was hospitalized; a second driver was injured slightly.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the truckdriver to maintain the proper level of attention to the driving task and perceive the standing vehicles on the roadway and stop his vehicle short. The Safety Board believes that the driver's inattention to the traffic in front of him may have resulted from fatigue.

Contributing to the accident was the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation to implement existing standards and guidelines for controlling traffic through construction zones, which permitted a 3 1/2-mile backup of slow moving and stopping traffic.


As a result of its investigation of this accident the National Transportation Safety Board submitted the following recommendations:

to the Federal Highway Administration:

"Increase its oversight function for the Georgia Department of Transportation and, if necessary, help them develop plans for maintenance and construction projects to assure compliance with FHWA standards and practices. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-78-61)

"Implement, as soon as possible, new concepts, methods, and approaches currently being developed through FHWA's Office of Research that will provide traffic management systems in construction zones more specifically tailored to urban driver information needs. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-78-62)

“Direct the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety to increase its surveillance of motor carrier operations under its jurisdiction and assure that they are in compliance with existing regulations for driver qualifications and hours of service. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-78-63)”

to the State of Georgia:

"Incorporate the policies, recommended practices, and standards contained in FHWA's guidelines and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices related to the control of traffic in maintenance and construction areas. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-78-64)"

the American Trucking Associations, Inc., its affiliates, and trucking company members:

Emphasize educational programs at the State, regional, and national levels to bring about a better understanding of, and compliance with, the safety regulations and safety practices of truck operators, especially small carriers performing for-hire or private carriage service. (Class I, Urgent Action) (H-78-65)

"Conduct a special study to determine if there are other techniques and programs which may be developed and utilized on an industry-wide basis to improve driver knowledge and conduct. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-78-66)"