Feds Issue Final Report on Atlanta Bus Crash

August 22, 2008

The National Transportation Safety Board released final recommendations urging more clear and consistent highway signs in the wake of a March 2007 bus crash in Atlanta that killed five athletes from Ohio’s Bluffton University.

The recommendations were approved in a July meeting in Washington in response to the accident, and many were already being implemented by transportation officials.

Investigators say the bus driver thought he was staying in an HOV lane when he drove onto an elevated ramp just north of Atlanta, plowing through a stop sign at highway speed.

Five members of Bluffton’s baseball team were killed, along with the bus driver and his wife. The crash injured another 28 people.

The board’s investigation said confusing highway signs were a primary cause of the wreck, and it also cited driver error and a lack of seat belts and other safety features on the bus as key factors.

In a letter sent to state officials on Aug. 18, the board urged the Federal Highway Administration to improve sign guidelines for HOV exits on the left side of the road. It also pushed for more street markings and speed limit signs near those exits.

A similar letter sent to Georgia transportation officials urged the state to install more signs and improve road markings at the site of the accident.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Gena Abraham has said the agency heard “quite clearly” the recommendations and is already implementing them.

The agency said it received no complaints about the interchange before the crash, although police reports show that three drivers who had earlier wrecks at the site said they misread signs and did not realize they had left the HOV lane before they crashed.

Another bus driver also contacted the transportation officials after the Bluffton crash, saying that he also made the same mistake but was able to stop the bus and avoid a wreck.

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