A tragedy in Atlanta, Georgia, killed six members of the baseball team of Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio, and injured dozens of others. The Bluffton baseball team was traveling in a charter bus on highway I-75 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the way to games during the team’s spring break. It appears that the bus took a left lane exit at full speed, the driver possibly thinking that he was in a travel lane – that may never be known, as the driver and his wife, accompanying him, were also tragically killed. The bus crashed through a barrier and plunged 30 feet to the highway below.
As the Atlanta bus crash is being investigated, no comments in this blog are specific to that incident. My thoughts and sympathies are to the families of the young people killed, as are the thoughts of every American who has heard of the crash.
Fatal bus accidents or bus accidents with serious injury are unfortunately more common than should be tolerated. Excessive speed is often a cause. Driver fatigue due to an unsafe number of hours behind the wheel is another. A third cause, possibly a factor in the Atlanta bus crash, is unfamiliarity of the route by the driver. Anytime a driver is put behind the wheel of a bus and does not know the route, the fault lies with the company. Buses appear outwardly to be safe vehicles due to their size. They are prone, however, to rollovers. Owing to their size and center of gravity, they are not highly maneuverable in emergencies at high speed.
A tragedy analogous to the Atlanta, Georgia incident occurred to students of a middle school in my hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. A bus operated by Crystal Transportation was taking middle school music students to a performance in Canada, when the bus flipped over several times on an off-ramp to Fredericton, Canada. Four students were killed. Investigation revealed that the driver got off on the wrong ramp – the ramp on which he exited was not designed for the relatively high speed he was traveling when he took it. The driver had recently spelled the original driver. It is possible that the replacement driver was unfamiliar with the route. Charter (and public) bus companies, owe no less to their users than to insure that their drivers stay within the legal speed limits, and are always familiar with the route, especially hazardous exits and stretches of highway.