In March 2007, a tour bus carrying the Bluffton University baseball team from Ohio to Florida mistakenly took the Northside Drive exit from the left HOV lane on I-75 in Atlanta and crashed off a bridge at the top of the ramp. The National Transportation Safety Board issued a report that blamed the tragedy on bad signs and driver error. I was in the team of lawyers representing the victims of that tragedy.
Problems with Georgia DOT’s signage at the Northside Drive exit included:
* The design of traffic signs for this exit was not prepared in substantial compliance with generally accepted engineering or design standards in effect at the time it was designed prior to the 1996 Olympics.
* An advanced guide sign placed on the Howell Mill Road overpass, which precedes the Left Exit at Northside Drive, graphically indicated the approach of the exit to I-85 northbound, which is after the Left Exit when heading southbound.
* Advanced guide signs are supposed to be used to describe the immediate next exit, not an exit that is located after the next exit.
* Because the advanced guide sign attached to the Howell Mill Road overpass did not describe the immediate next exit, which was the Left Exit, but rather described the exit after that, which was the I-85 northbound exit, that sign was not prepared in substantial compliance with generally accepted engineering or design standards.
Yesterday, Jeffrey Scott of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that last week two other bus driver mistook the same HOV exit ramp for a through lane, and narrowly averted repeating the Bluffton bus tragedy on the same spot.
Some of the changes in signage recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board last summer are still not in place, over two years after the Bluffton crash. A DOT spokesman said the footings for new signs had just been placed.
I happened to drive by that location this morning before work. A strip of reflective material and a reflective sign with arrows pointing right and left have been added at the point where the Bluffton team bus crashed off the bridge to the expressway below.
Ken Shigley is an interstate trucking trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.