Highway Accident Report

Adopted: May 3, 1979
AUGUST 22, 1978

NTSB Number: HAR-79/04
NTIS Number: PB-296889/AS


About 3:30 p.m., on August 22, 1978, an ambulance transporting a cardiac patient to a hospital and traveling at a calculated speed of 90 to 95 mph failed to negotiate a curve on New Hampshire State Route 116 east of Littleton, New Hampshire, and rolled over. The attendants in the ambulance were killed and the driver was injured. The patient had died before the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was loss of control of the ambulance which had oversteer characteristics, by an unskilled driver at a high rate of speed. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the driver's lack of training in the operation of the ambulance at high speeds.


During its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended on February 1, 1979, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

"Modify Highway Safety Program Standard No. 11, 'Emergency Medical Services,' and the NHTSA Training Program for Operation of Emergency Vehicles to provide for behind-the-wheel training in the principles and techniques of high-speed driving, and to require that a student successfully complete both a written and a behind-the-wheel examination before he is licensed. (Class I, Urgent Action)(H-79-1)

"Urge the States to maintain and make available, through the State driver licensing agency, the records of all licensed emergency vehicle operators so that employers can determine if an applicant for an emergency vehicle driver position is licensed for the operation of emergency vehicles. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-79-2)”

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board further recommended:

to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

"Extend the application of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 220, Schoolbus Rollover Protection; 221, Schoolbus Body Joint Strength; and 301, Fuel System Integrity to include ambulances and other emergency vehicles. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-79-27)

"Study the feasibility of extending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards relating to vehicle interior padding, occupant protection, and the anchorages of seats, flooring, and equipment to include ambulances and other emergency vehicles. (Class III, Longer Term Action)(H-79-28)”

to the General Services Administration:

"Add to the Federal Specification KKK-A-1822 of January 2, 1974, Ambulances approved by Federal Supply Services, performance-type requirements in the following areas:

(1) Maintenance of the manufacturer's vehicle handling characteristics during modification procedures;

(2) loading instructions to guide users so as not to change vehicle handling characteristics;

(3) body structural integrity;

(4) anchorages for all equipment installed; and

(5) occupant protection.

(Class II, Priority Action)(H-79-29)"

to the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, in cooperation with the American Bar Association:

"Consider the modification of Section 11-106(b)3 of the Uniform Vehicle Code to include the following criteria to justify an exemption from posted speed limits:

(Class II, Priority Action)(H-79-30)"