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
Adopted June 3, 2003
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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.

Probable Cause

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.

Recommendations

As a result of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Develop, in conjunction with The Advertising Council, Inc., a media campaign stressing the dangers associated with distracted driving. (H-03-03)

Develop, in conjunction with the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, a module for driver education curriculums that emphasizes the risks of engaging in distracting behavior. (H-03-04)

Determine the magnitude and impact of driver-controlled, in-vehicle distractions, including the use of interactive wireless communication devices, on highway safety and report your findings to the U. S. Congress and the States. (H-03-05)

Expand your current evaluation of electronic stability control systems and determine their potential for assisting drivers in maintaining control of passenger cars, light trucks, sport utility vehicles, and vans. Include in this evaluation an accident data analysis of electronic stability control-equipped vehicles in the U.S. fleet. (H-03-06)

If the results of your evaluation of electronic stability control systems are favorable, initiate a phased-in electronic stability control mandate for passenger cars, light trucks, sport utility vehicles, and vans. (H-03-07)

To the 48 States that do not have legislation prohibiting holders of learner's permits and intermediate licenses from using interactive wireless communication devices:

Enact legislation to prohibit holders of learner's permits and intermediate licenses from using interactive wireless communication devices while driving. (H-03-08)

To the 34 States that do not have driver distraction codes on their traffic accident investigation forms:

Add driver distraction codes, including codes for interactive wireless communication device use, to your traffic accident investigation forms. (H-03-09)

To the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association:

Develop, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a module for driver education curriculums that emphasizes the risks of engaging in distracting behavior. (H-03-10)

To The Advertising Council, Inc.:

Develop, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a media campaign stressing the dangers associated with distracted driving. (H-03-11)

The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following recommendations:

To the Federal Highway Administration:

Review, with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the median barrier warrants and revise them as necessary to reflect changes in the factors affecting the probability of cross-median accidents, including changes in the vehicle fleet and the percentage of heavy trucks using the roadway. (H-98-12)

To the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials:

Review, with the Federal Highway Administration, the median barrier warrants and revise them as necessary to reflect changes in the factors affecting the probability of cross-median accidents, including changes in the vehicle fleet and the percentage of heavy trucks using the roadway. (H-98-24)