Highway Accident Report

Adopted: April 14, 1987
NOVEMBER 11, 1985

NTSB Number: HAR-87/02
NTIS Number: PB87-916203


About 2:43 p.m. central standard time on November 11, 1985, a schoolbus owned by R. W. Harmon and Sons, Inc. was eastbound on II-70 transporting 13 high school students to their homes in St. Louis, Missouri, from the Parkway North Senior High School. As the schoolbus was approaching the Lucas and Hunt Road exit it went out of control, swerved to the right, and the right front of the schoolbus struck a guard rail, a concrete pedestal and a sign support pillar located adjacent to the right eastbound roadway. The schoolbus body and the steering axle separated from the chassis during the collision. The weather was cloudy and the pavement was dry. The schoolbus did not catch fire. Two students were killed; the schoolbus driver and one student sustained serious injuries and the remaining 10 students sustained minor to moderate Injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the operation of the schoolbus at an excessive speed and in a reckless manner by a driver under the influence of alcohol. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the use of a guard rail of insufficient height and stiffness to deflect the schoolbus bodyaway from the concrete pedestal and sign support pillar.

This report discusses several safety issues including the adequacy of several States'
requirements concerning schoolbus driver applicant pre-employment screening; the availability of driving and criminal record histories of schoolbus driver applicants to prospective employers; the adequacy of the guard rail installed to protect vehicles from colliding with the concrete pedestal and the sign pillar; and the crashworthiness of the schoolbus.

The report concludes that several of the States and the District of Columbia should revise minimum requirements concerning schoolbus driver applicant pre-employment screening and should revise existing policies and procedures which restrict the availability of criminal histories of prospective schoolbus drivers. The report also concludes that there is more to be done by the Federal Highway Administration to encourage the State highway departments to systematically evaluate the performance of crash-damage highway appurtenances, and to upgrade these appurtenances if necessary to meet current design standards. The report contains safety improvement recommendations addressing these issues.


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

-to the Federal Highway Administration:

Reissue Federal Highway Administration Notice N 7560.6, “Federal Aid Participation In Highway Appurtenances” and instruct Federal Highway Administration Division Offices to provide copies of the notice to the States. Actively encourage the States to systematically evaluate the performance of crash-damaged highway safety appurtenances and upgrade crash-damaged appurtenances if necessary to meet current design standards. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-18)

-to the legislature of the State of Missouri:

Revise the Missouri statutes to ensure that a finding or plea of guilty to one or more of the crimes listed in Senate Bill 707 will disqualify the defendant from operating a schoolbus in the State of Missouri even if imposition of sentence is suspended. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-19)

-to 20 selected States and the District of Columbia:

Require, as a part of pre-employment screening procedures, that all schoolbus operators in your jurisdiction obtain the driving record for each schoolbus driver applicant for the preceeding 3 years by making inquiry to the appropriate agency in every State .in which the applicant held a motor vehicle operator's license or permit for those 3 years. (Class II, Priority Action) (fi-87-20)

-to 31 selected States and the District of Columbia:

Require that the criminal records of schoolbus driver applicants be examined, either by the licensing agency in your jurisdiction when a schoolbus driver's license or permit is issued or renewed, or by a prospective employer as part of a pre-employment screening procedure. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-87-21)