Highway Accident Report


Adopted: May 16, 1991
MULTIPLE VEHICLE COLLISION
AND FIRE IN A WORK ZONE ON
INTERSTATE HIGHWAY 79 NEAR
SUTTON, WEST VIRGINIA
July 26, 1990

NTSB Number: HAR-91/01
NTIS Number: PB91-916201


SYNOPSIS

About 5:40 p.m. on July 26,1990, a truck operated by Double B Auto Sales, Inc., transporting eight automobiles entered a highway work zone near Sutton, West Virginia, on northbound Interstate Highway 79 and struck the rear of a utility trailer being towed by a Dodge Aspen. The Aspen then struck the rear of a Plymouth Colt, and the Double B truck and the two automobiles traveled into the closed right lane and collided with three West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) maintenance vehicles.
Fire ensued, and the eight occupants in the Aspen and the Colt died. The Aspen, Colt, Double B truck, and two of the three WVDOT vehicles were either destroyed or severely damaged. The Double B truckdriver and one firefighter sustained minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the inattention of the driver of the Double B Auto Sales. Inc., truck due to fatigue, exacerbated by an inadequate and unbalanced diet the day of the accident, and the inadequacy of the oversight exercised by Double B Auto Sales, Inc., to ensure that its drivers were qualified and received adequate rest. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the less than optimal work zone control devices and procedures used by the West Virginia Department of Transportation. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the operation of the Double B vehicle at a speed in excess of the posted limit, creating a speed differential between the Double B truck and the other involved vehicles, and the Double B truckdriver's failure to properly secure the automobile being transported on his vehicle's head ramp.

The safety issues discussed in this report include:

commercial driver fatigue;

the adequacy of the oversight exercised by Double B Auto Sales, Inc., to ensure that its truckdrivers obtained adequate rest;

the use of available tiedowns by the Double B truckdriver to secure the automobiles being transported on his truck;

the adequacv of highway work zone safety features and signing to alert inattentive motorists to the presence of the work zone; and driver licensing and suspension procedures by the State of New York.

As a result of its investigation, the Safety Board issued safety recommendations to Double B Auto Sales, Inc., the West Virginia Department of Transportation, the State of New York, the National Automobile Transporter's Association, and the Federal Highway Administration.

RECOMMENDATIONS

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

--to Double B Auto Sales, Inc.:

Institute procedures to ensure that company drivers obtain required off-duty or sleeper-berth time in facilities that meet the requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-14)

-to the West Virginia Department of Transportation:

Use drums instead of traffic cones on all interstate highway work zones. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-9 I- 1 5)

Place flaggers far enough in advance of work zones to accommodate longer stopping and slowing distances for heavy trucks. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-1 6)

Provide audible warning devices, such as horns, to all flaggers posted in work zones. (Class II, Priority Action)(H 91-17)

Establish policies that set speed limit reductions at 10 mph increments in work zones in which the difference between the approach speed and the speed limit in the zone is more than 10 mph. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-18)

Require the use of oversized signs to encourage compliance with reduced speed limits in work zones. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-19)

Restore the lane surface, if a project requires a lane closure, before reopening the lane to prevent large approach speed differentials. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-20)

Adopt and implement a program similar to California's "Give 'Em a-BRAKE' program. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-21)

-to the State of New York:

Institute procedures to assess points for all out-of-State driving violation convictions of New York-licensed drivers. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-91-22)

Institute procedures in the Driver Improvement Program to require an automatic suspension of-driving privileges for persistent violators pending review by an examiner. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-91-23)

Institute procedures in the Driver Improvement Program to document decisions made by examiners and the rationale for actions taken after a formal review of a persistent violator's driving record. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-91-24)

Institute procedures in the Driver Improvement Program to require a limit on the number of times a driver's license can be suspended before it is revoked and establish a period of time before the driver may reapply for licensing. (Class II, Priority Action) (H-91-25)

-to the National Automobile Transporter's Association:

Advise your members of the facts and circumstances of the multiple vehicle collision and fire that occurred near Sutton, West-Virginia, on July 26, 1990, and request your members to remind their drivers to use all available tiedown devices when securing vehicles to the transporter. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-26)

-to the Federal Highway Administration:

Conduct research to determine: a) what characteristics of work zone traffic advisories work best to counter driver inattention, and b) how to provide more readily understandable displays of critical information. Use the results of this research to design better and more meaningful work zone traffic advisories. (Class III, Longer Term Action)(H-91-27)

Encourage the use of work zone safety devices and procedures, such as 'rumble strips,' that alert the various senses. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-28)

Encourage the use of the 'design driver' concept, which assumes that some drivers are impaired or inattentive, in designing work zone safety features and signing. (Class I, Priority Action)(H-91-29)

Revise Section 6F-5 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices to establish recommended distances for posting flaggers at work zones based on the legal speed limit approaching the zone. (Class II, Priority Action)(H-91-30)

Add a section to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices encouraging or requiring the use of audible warning devices, such as horns, by work zone flaggers to alert highway workers of the approach of an erratic vehicle. (Class I, Priority Action)(H-91-3 1)