Highway Accident Report

Adopted: December 10, 1985
SCHOOLBUS ROLLOVER
STATE ROUTE 88
NEAR JEFFERSON, NORTH CAROLINA
MARCH 13,1985

NTSB Number: HAR-85/05
NTIS Number: PB85-916206

SYNOPSIS

About 12:20 p.m. on March 13, 1985, an Ashe County School District schoolbus driven by a 17-year-old student driver and carrying 22 students, ages 16 and 17, was traveling up an 8-percent grade on eastbound State Route 88 near Jefferson, North Carolina, when it went off the right edge of the road in a left curve and crossed the grassy shoulder. The 1980 schoolbus then rolled one revolution to the right and down a steep embankment and came to rest upright 24 feet below the road surface against two trees. There was no fuel leakage or fire. It was daylight the weather was clear, and the two-lane roadway was dry. One student was seriously injured, one sustained moderate injuries, and the other 20 had minor injuries; the schoolbus driver was not injured. None of the bus occupants were ejected from the schoolbus.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was the inattention of the 17 year-old student schoolbus driver to his driving task which resulted in the schoolbus leaving the road, loss of control, and a subsequent overturn of the schoolbus. Contributing to the accident was the distraction of the driver by the unruly behavior of the student passengers. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of a guardrail to redirect errant vehicles away from the steep embankment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As a result of its investigation of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board issued the following recommendations:

--to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Encourage school jurisdictions in all States to emphasize the portions of the Highway Safety Program Standard (HSPS) 17, "Pupil Transportation Safety,," and the program manual for HSPS 17 addressing the handling of student behavioral problems in training courses for schoolbus drivers and in instruction given students in the rules for bus riders, enforcement actions to be taken for rule violations, and the need for students to practice good behavior at all times while riding on a schoolbus. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-85-53)

--to the Ashe County School District:

Comply with the Federal guidelines in Highway Safety Program Standard 179' "Pupil Transportation Safety which suggests that "one emergency evacuation drill should be held during the first week of school each semester" and that "at least twice during each school year, each pupil who is transported in a school vehicle shall be instructed in safe riding practices-" (Class II, Priority Action) (H-85-54)

Develop a program to follow up on reports of monthly schoolbus inspections in which missing or damaged safety equipment is noted, and assign specific responsibility for the replacement and repair of such Items and for the correction of other noted safety hazards. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-85-55)

--to the State Directors of Pupil Transportation of Alabama, North. Carolina and South Carolina:

Discontinue the practice of hiring 16- and 17-y -old schoolbus drivers. (Class 11, Priority Action) (H-85-56)

--to the State Director of Pupil Transportation of North Carolina:

As an interim measure take steps to correct, passenger discipline problems being encountered by current schoolbus drivers under 18 years of age. (Class Up Priority Action) (H-85-57)

Ensure that local school districts In the State of North Carolina comply with the Federal guidelines in Highway Safety Program Standard 17, "Pupil Transportation Safety," which suggests that "one emergency evacuation drill should be held during the first week of school each semester" and that "at least twice during each school year, each pupil who is transported in a school vehicle shall be instructed in safe riding practices." (Class II, Priority Action) (H-85-58)

--to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Install a guardrail on North Carolina State Route 88 from 0.35 to 0.65 mile west of Jefferson, North Carolina, where warranted, based on the fill height and embankment slope which meet the criteria in the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' "Guide for Selecting, Locating, and Designing Traffic Barriers." (Class II, Priority Action) (H-85-59)