From 1986 through 1988, the Safety Board investigated four accidents involving commercial charter bus operations serving Atlantic City, New Jersey. Three accidents involved intercity buses en route to and one accident involved an intercity bus on its return trip from Atlantic City. In each accident there were no apparent weather, highway, or vehicle issues that were causal or contributing factors. Rather, each accident involved busdriver performance issues that were causal. The Board decided to focus on these accidents because of the common busdriver performance issues and because of the large number of buses serving Atlantic City. According to data from the Atlantic County Transportation Authority, approximately 1,700 buses enter Atlantic City daily.
In 1986, the Safety Board investigated the rear-end collision of a tractor-semitrailer by a Leatherwood Motor Coach Corporation intercity bus on September 29, 1986. The bus was northbound on 1-295 near Carney's Point en route to Atlantic City via the Atlantic City Expressway when it struck the rear of the slower moving tractor-semitrailer. The busdriver and 38 passengers received minor to serious injuries. The Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the busdriver's inattention to his driving task and his misjudgment of the closing speed between the bus and the truck in front of him.
On September 6, 1987, an Academy Lines, Inc., intercity bus returning from Atlantic City, ran off the roadway and overturned near Middletown Township, New Jersey. The busdriver and one passenger were killed, and 32 passengers received minor to moderate injuries. The Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the busdriver's lack of vigilance which resulted in his failure to perceive that his vehicle was leaving the roadway.
In 1988, the Safety Board investigated two more commercial charter passenger intercity bus accidents involving groups en route to Atlantic City; one in Little Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, on July 23 and the other in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, on November 29. In the Little Egg Harbor Township accident, the busdriver lost control of the bus and it ran off the highway. In the Tinton Falls accident, the busdriver lost control of the bus and it overturned. Both accidents occurred on the Garden State Parkway; there was no fire or other vehicles involved, and a total of 95 passengers received minor to severe injuries.
The safety issues discussed in the Little Egg Harbor Township and Tinton Falls accidents include:
busdriver drug abuse (Little Egg Harbor),
busdriver inattention (Tinton Falls),
busdriver failure to use seatbelt-(Tinton Falls), and
crashworthiness of the intercity bus--advantageous performance of abrasion-resistant coated acrylic windows and potentially dangerous broken bus seat arm rests (Tinton Falls).
No safety recommendations were made as a result of the accident at Little Egg Harbor Township. However, five safety recommendations have been made as a result of the accident at Tinton Falls. Recommendations were addressed to Leisure Time, Inc., on busdriver seatbelt usage; to the United Bus Owners of American and the American Bus Association to inform their members of the favorable-performance of acrylic bus windows; to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine if a defect investigation is warranted concerning seat armrests used in intercity buses; to the New Jersey Department of Transportation on the priorities of the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program concerning accidents involving commercial passenger buses; and to the Federal Highway Administration to amend the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to require operators of commercial passenger-carrying motor vehicles to obtain pertinent information about applicants' employment histories, driving experience, training and to determine that applicants are fully qualified before permitting them to operate passenger-carrying vehicles.