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Georgia plans to make road exits safer

March 14, 2007|From Times Wire Reports

ATLANTA — Georgia highway officials investigating a deadly bus crash said Tuesday that they would add safety measures to several commuter-lane exits like the one a baseball team's bus took before it plunged off an overpass two weeks ago.

Seven people on the bus died, five of them baseball players from Bluffton University in Ohio.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman David Spear said the state would be adding signs and reflective striping to seven similar ramps starting today.

The bus driver apparently mistook one of the Atlanta-area commuter-lane exit ramps for a lane, officials said. The bus crossed through a T-intersection at the top of the ramp and careered over the retaining wall of the overpass to the interstate, 30 feet below. The driver and his wife died in the crash.

Spear declined to say whether the new safety measures could have prevented the March 2 wreck.

He said Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl decided to make the safety changes based on recommendations from department engineers after the accident.

The changes can be made quickly and without having to get permits to add overhead signs or other devices, Spear said. More significant alterations to the ramps could come after engineers study the exits more, he said.

Chester Slabaugh, whose son Allen was thrown from the bus but not seriously injured, said parents would watch to see what changes were made.

"At least they're trying to do something," he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the accident.

"Anything that can be done now to prevent future accidents is significant," said Bluffton University President James Harder.

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