At 2:56 p.m. on June 23, 2002, a 1998 Motor Coach Industries, 55-passenger motorcoach, operated by Arrow Line, Inc., a Coach USA subsidiary, was traveling eastbound between 60 and 63 mph on Interstate 90 near Victor, New York. The motorcoach, carrying 47 passengers, was en route from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, to Waterbury, Connecticut. As the bus approached the Victor Exit 45 ramp, the vehicle departed the roadway and proceeded into the depressed grassy area between the eastbound exit and entrance ramps. The motorcoach then struck a W-beam guardrail, dragged approximately 700 feet of the guardrail across the eastbound entrance ramp, vaulted over the entrance ramp roadway, landed on the south side shoulder of the entrance ramp, rolled 90 degrees onto its right side, and slid to rest. The guardrail dragged by the motorcoach then struck three eastbound vehicles on the entrance ramp. Three occupants of these vehicles were uninjured, and six received minor injuries. Of the 48 people on the motorcoach, 5 passengers were killed; the driver and 41 passengers sustained injuries; and 1 passenger was uninjured.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accident was that the bus driver fell asleep while operating the motorcoach due to his deliberate failure to obtain adequate rest during his off-duty hours. Contributing to the cause of the accident was the second Arrow Line, Inc., motorcoach driver, who did nothing to prevent the severely fatigued driver from operating the accident motorcoach, and the failure of Arrow Line, Inc., and its holding company, Coach USA, to provide adequate oversight of their drivers. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of occupant restraints for the motorcoach passengers.
The safety issues identified in this accident are operator fatigue, motorcoach crashworthiness, and the adequacy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's oversight of and rating system for motorcoach operations.
As a result of this accident investigation, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, and Coach USA and its subsidiaries. Also, the Safety Board reiterates Safety Recommendations H-99-47 and -48 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
To the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Require the posting of an emergency telephone number on the interior of motorcoaches for passengers to call in the event of an emergency with the driver. (H-04-18)
Revise the Safety Status Measurement System to compare passenger carriers to other passenger carriers to ensure accurate safety ratings. (H-04-19)
Utilize motor carrier safety information, including results of compliance audit reports provided by the U.S. Department of Defense Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, to determine whether further review of a motor carrier is warranted. (H-04-20)
To the U.S. Department of Defense Surface Deployment and Distribution Command:
Provide motor carrier information, including timely results of passenger carrier inspection processes and ratings, to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (H-04-21)
To Coach USA and its subsidiaries:
Evaluate all calls reporting dangerous driver behaviors immediately upon receiving them and establish a method to reach the driver so that Coach USA can evaluate the driver's fitness for duty and take appropriate countermeasures, if necessary. (H-04-22)
The National Transportation Safety Board also reiterates the following recommendations:
To the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
In 2 years, develop performance standards for motorcoach occupant protection systems that account for frontal impact collisions, side impact collisions, rear impact collisions, and rollovers. (H-99-47)
Once pertinent standards have been developed for motorcoach occupant protection systems, require newly manufactured motorcoaches to have an occupant crash protection system that meets the newly developed performance standards and retains passengers, including those in child safety restraint systems, within the seating compartment throughout the accident sequence for all accident scenarios. (H-99-48)