Highway Accident Report

Ford Explorer Sport Collision
With Ford Windstar Minivan
and Jeep Grand Cherokee
on Interstate 95/495
Near Largo, Maryland
February 1, 2002

NTSB Number HAR-03/02
NTIS Number PB2003-916202
PDF Document(1.9MB)

Executive Summary:

On February 1, 2002, about 8:00 p.m., on the outer lanes of Interstate 95/495 near Largo, Maryland, a 1998 two-door Ford Explorer Sport, traveling northbound at an estimated speed of 70 to 75 mph, veered off the left side of the roadway, crossed over the median, climbed up a guardrail, flipped over, and landed on top of a southbound 2001 four-door Ford Windstar minivan. Subsequently, a 1998 four-door Jeep Grand Cherokee ran into the minivan. Of the eight people involved in the accident, five adults were fatally injured, one adult sustained minor injuries, and two children were uninjured.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the February 1, 2002, collision of the Ford Explorer Sport with the Ford Windstar minivan and Jeep Grand Cherokee was the Explorer driver’s failure to maintain directional control of her high-profile, short-wheelbase vehicle in the windy conditions due to a combination of inexperience, unfamiliarity with the vehicle, speed, and distraction caused by use of a handheld wireless telephone. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of an effective median barrier at the accident site.

The following safety issues were identified in this accident: the accident driver’s speed, operating inexperience, and unfamiliarity with the vehicle; the use of a wireless telephone while operating a vehicle; the need for technology to aid vehicle stability; and the adequacy of the existing barrier system.

As a result of this accident investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 49 States (exclusion—New Jersey), the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, and The Advertising Council, Inc. The Safety Board also reiterates Safety Recommendations H-98-12 and -24 to the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, respectively.