Example of a Tragic Bus Accident on 1-75

In the early morning of March 2, 2007, a Bluffton University team bus was involved in a tragic accident on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia. Their chartered bus was carrying Bluffton’s baseball team members to a tournament in Sarasota, Florida. The group’s plan was to complete the 900 mile trip without an overnight stop. At about the halfway point near Atlanta, a relief driver took the wheel for the second half of the trip.

Around 5:38 AM, the driver mistakenly entered an HOV-only exit ramp which led upward toward a wide elevated T-intersection that was marked by a stop sign. Because the driver thought he was simply driving in an HOV lane, he continued to drive at highway speeds and when he reached the top of the ramp and the stop sign it was too late for him to slow down in time to avoid this tragic accident. The driver tried to stop but couldn’t and after losing control of the bus, it slid into a concrete bridge barrier and then plummeted 19 feet, landing onto its left side across the interstate below. The twenty nine crash survivors were transported to Atlanta-area hospitals and, tragically, seven occupants were killed including the driver and his wife along with five members of the baseball team.

In its final report, the U.S. NTSB concluded that the likely cause of this tragic accident was the bus driver’s mistaken perception that the HOV lane continued up the road when in fact it ended suddenly as an off-ramp from I-75 to Northside Drive.

Since this collision the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) has re-configured all HOV lane exits in order to reduce or eliminate these kinds of driver errors.

Of interest in the investigation is not only the signage but the design of the exit itself. Several factors appear to have played a possible role in this bus crash:

  • The exit is on the left-hand side of the Interstate and not the right-hand side.
  • Adequate advance notice may not have been given of this unusual exit setup.
  • The HOV exit is signed differently than standard exits which fails to alert the driver to the upcoming danger.
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