The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the probable cause of a 2007 motorcoach crash that occurred on an elevated highway ramp in Atlanta was the driver's mistaking of an Interstate high occupancy vehicle (HOV)-only left exit ramp for an HOV through lane.
Contributing to the driver's mistake was the failure of the Georgia Department of Transportation to install adequate traffic control devices to identify and distinguish the two different HOV lanes. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the motorcoach's lack of an adequate occupant protection system.
"This accident demonstrates the need for clear and consistent highway signage and traffic devices across the U.S. interstate system, in order to provide reliable guidance to all motorists on our nation's highways," said Mark V. Rosenker, NTSB chairman.
On Friday, March 2, 2007, a 2000 VanHool T2145 57-passenger motorcoach operated by Executive Coach Luxury Travel Inc., transporting 33 members of the Bluffton University (Ohio) baseball team, exited the HOV lane of Interstate 75 in Atlanta, entered an intersection on an overpass, overrode a bridge wall and fell 19 feet onto the southbound lanes of the Interstate. Seven motorcoach occupants were killed: the driver, the driver's wife and five passengers. Seven other motorcoach passengers received serious injuries, while 21 more received minor injuries.
As a result of its investigation, the NTSB made five recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration regarding the uniformity of specific requirements, standards and criteria in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The NTSB also made five recommendations to the Georgia Department of Transportation regarding signage improvements.
The Board also reiterated four previous recommendations made in 1999 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding the need for improved motorcoach occupant protection systems and the installation of on-board recording systems that record vehicle parameters and crash data.
A synopsis of the Board's report, including the probable cause and recommendations, is available on the NTSB's Website at www.ntsb.gov/Publictn/2008/HAR0801.htm. The Board's full report will be available on the Website in several weeks.