Highway Accident Report

Adopted: August 5, 1986
MAY 31, 1985

NTSB Number: HAR-86/02
NTIS Number: PB86-916202


About 3:20 p.m. on May 31, 1985, a northbound Military Distributors of Virginia, Ine.9 tractor-semitrailer collided with two southbound vehicles on a curve on U. S. 13, about 2.3 miles south of Snow Hill, North Carolina. The first collision on the two-lane, undivided highway was with a 1982 schoolbus operated by the Greene County (North Carolina) Board of Education. After this collision, the Military Distributors vehicle continued northbound and struck a traetor-semitrailer loaded with grain, which had been following the schoolbus on the two-lane highway. During the collision with the grain truck, the Military Distributors semitrailer separated from its tractor, continued northbound and overturned onto its right side in the northbound lane.

The rear of the grain trucks semitrailer remained on the highway an was struck by a passenger automobile. After the collisions, the Military Distributors tractor, and the front of the grain truck's semitrailer caught fire. The weather was clear and the pavement was dry. The Military Distributors truckdriver sustained fatal injuries. Of the 27 schoolbus passengers (ages 5 to 13)15 sustained minor or moderate injuries, 10 sustained serious or severe Injuries, and 2 received critical Injuries. Six of the passengers died. The schoolbus driver, the grain truck driver, and the automobile driver and passenger sustained minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the driver of the Military Distributors of Virginia, Inc. truck to keep his vehicle to the right of the highway centerline because of inattention due to a momentary lapse of alertness, falling asleep, or an epileptic seizure.


As a result of its Investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board made the following recommendations:

--to all States (except California and Hawaii) and the District of Columbia:

Prohibit the issuance of licenses for the operation of large commercial trucks and vehicles capable of transporting more than 10 passengers to persons with diagnosed seizure disorders. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-50)

--to all States (except California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia:

Require physicians licensed to practice In your jurisdiction to report the name, address, and date of birth of any person diagnosed or treated for a seizure disorder to the central State driver licensing agency without delay. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-51)

Provide immunity from liability for physician reporting information about patients with diagnosed seizure disorders. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-52)

--to the American Medical Association:

Inform your membership of the facts and circumstances of the accident on May 31, 1985, near Snow Hill,, North Carolina, and urge physicians to emphasize to their patients with diagnosed seizure disorders to refrain from driving any vehicle until their seizure disorder Is controlled, and to Inform their patients of the Federal rule which prohibits the operation of a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce by a driver with a seizure disorder. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-53)

--to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Amend or clarify Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 221 to require that body panel joints for schoolbus body structures be tested in tension or peel unless they can only be tested in shear. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-54)

Amend or clarify Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 221 to include all body panel joints that enclose the occupant space. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-55)

Resume testing of schoolbus floor joints to ensure compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 221. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-56)

--to Thomas Built Buses, L.P.:

Strengthen the floor panel joints of all newly-manufactured schoolbuses to ensure that they comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 221. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-86-57)