Lost Megabus Driver Crashes Into Bridge While Checking GPS; Four Passengers Killed

Very early Saturday morning, a double-decker Megabus lost on its way to the bus station crashed into a low railroad overpass (pictured) outside of Syracuse, NY. Four passengers were killed, and twenty people injured, including the driver. Now, the public has learned that the driver was looking at his personal GPS unit at the time of the accident–which Megabus drivers are not permitted to use while driving for work.

The clearance is just ten feet, nine inches, and while this bus isn’t the first tall vehicle to hit this overpass, it’s the first known fatality. The passengers killed were sitting toward the front of the top level of the bus. Authorities are now waiting for blood tests on the Megabus driver and an accident reconstruction before deciding whether to press charges against the driver.

I grew up near where this accident happened, and know the area. It’s hard to believe that the bus driver wouldn’t have known about the low bridge. The warnings about the low clearance are numerous, prominent (flashing lights!), and start a few miles back.

Megabus driver was checking his own GPS device when fatal Onondaga Lake Parkway crash occurred [Post-Standard]
Salina railroad bridge is often struck despite warning signs, flashing lights [Post-Standard]
Onondaga County DA William Fitzpatrick said decision on whether to charge driver in bridge/bus crash may take week or more [Post-Standard]

RELATED:
Whoops: Megabus Driver Doesn’t Know Route From D.C. To New York

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  1. grucifer says:

    A kid from Philly died in this accident and also another kid from NJ. Been in the local news for a few days now, very sad stuff.

  2. JonnyNYK says:

    This is my hometown. See that big neon strip across the bridge? That was put in place because accidents like this occurred a lot. You can see it faaar way, especially when the sun is right on it. Maybe someday they’ll also put a barrier between the road and Onondaga lake, but it’ll take someone driving into the freezing water for that to happen I guess.

    • grucifer says:

      Well the crash happened at 2:30 AM, but I imagine head-lights on the bus would reflect off of it as well.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      And talk of perchance lowering the road elevation under the bridge to allow for taller traffic? Much easier and cheaper than raising the bridge.

      • acknight says:

        It’d take a heck of a drainage system. Road is already at lake level… lake is about 100 ft from the road. It’d be a puddle 80% of the time, on a curve, in a place that gets a lot of snow… much more dangerous.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Well, the civil engineers really screwed that one up then, didn’t they?

          • blz5k says:

            Considering this road/bridge was probably around way before vehicles surpassed 10′, there’s not really much to blame the civil engineer for. It is possible with properly designed drainage and retaining walls to lower the roadway to allow for taller vehicles.

            To answer TCama’s question, it is easier to dig than raise. Consider what would happen if you raised the bridge. The approaches would have to be raised as well, possibly causing a ripple effect for hundreds of feet away from the bridge, requiring much more construction and work.

          • Sepp_TB says:

            They did put signs up, many many of them, and have an alternate route that lets you bypass this road. It’s a very short stretch of road, and its only real function is to let traffic from the nearby village and heading either downtown or to the interstate skip the normal road and its many traffic lights. It’s also a 55mph (45 in winter) zone nestled between 30mph zones, and a source of much road rage and many traffic accidents, despite being 4 lanes and straight. Its non-essentialness is highlighted on Sundays when the road is closed to traffic and opened to recreation use instead (biking, running, rollerblading, etc).

            We’ve gone a few years now I believe with no one smashing into the railway overpass, the many signs and glowing neon strip do a pretty good job. The only other measure that could be taken might be cross-road sign of the same height a ways before the overpass, but then when that’s hit it risks falling onto other traffic. As is, when things smash into the overpass they only damage themselves (which historically has been shipping trucks… not passenger busses).

            • DarthCoven says:

              On some of the entrance ramps to the Belt Parkway in NYC there are plastic blocks hanging via chains from an overhead sign indicating maximum height. If your vehicle hits one of the blocks they’ll just swing back into place once you’re through. A system like this would probably help warn drivers that they’re about to own a convertible.

      • Tim says:

        Digging down into the ground is easier than raising an elevated structure? If that were true, subways would be a hell of a lot cheaper than streetcars or elevated trains.

        Plus, the lake.

    • PTB315 says:

      I live in Syracuse, on Tipp Hill. Honestly the bus driver should be charged for negligence or something. Of the multiple overpasses that get hit in and around Syracuse, (like the train bridge down by Rosies/Dennys on West Genny & Erie), this one has sign after flashing sign listing the height requirements and stating NO TRUCKS. It’s absurd every time someone hits any of these things, and now it cost some lives.

      They really can’t fix the bridge or lower the road.

      Where in Syracuse are you from?

  3. tgrwillki says:

    …and yet the cast of Jersey Shore still lives.

    Where is God now?

  4. fs2k2isfun says:

    I’ve had to give Megabus drivers directions before. Many are straight from driving school and have no experience driving the route.

    • Etoiles says:

      I once had to give a Greyhound driver directions around and through Hartford on a Boston/NY trip that went horribly wrong. Experiences like that make me favor GPS units in buses — just in the hands of drivers who won’t neglect to notice a bright orange reflector on a low-clearance bridge.

      • Tim says:

        They make GPS units that tell the driver if a road is truck/bus restricted, or give huge warnings if a low clearance is ahead. Unfortunately, this driver was using his personal GPS.

        • Etoiles says:

          Even so, there’s no substitute for common sense. Our GPS tells us to do illegal things all the time, because DC is full of roads where the rules (direction-switching lanes, legality of turns, which direction the road is going) change based on the time of day. So we have to employ common sense on our route and see that no, thanks TomTom, I’m sure turning left here *would* be fastest but it would also make us *dead* thanks to the oncoming traffic.

          From the description given above, it seems clear (though I’ll acknowledge that a sketchy summary isn’t gospel truth) that the driver was flat-out being negligent about paying attention to his surroundings.

      • DaWezl says:

        OMG, were we on the same bus?!! Or does it happen all the time on that route?

        The bus I was on ended up so lost that the driver actually drove ACROSS SOMEONE’S LAWN to get over to a different road.

    • jessjj347 says:

      They cut costs wherever they can…to be honest these people should sue Megabus so that this stops in the future. Nothing is going to happen if just the driver is held responsible (although he should be too).

    • scoosdad says:

      Missed the turnoff for the Charter Oaks Bridge, did he? I was on a bus bringing us from our branch office in Boston down to the company holiday party in southern CT two years ago, and I had to do the same thing for the driver. He flew right by the Rt. 15 left exit figuring he could get on I-91 south on the Hartford side of the river. We ended up navigating through downtown Hartford until we found our way back.

  5. kriswone says:

    The most dangerous part about trucks hitting this bridge is the angle of the bridge, if you look at the picture, that picture is unaltered, that bridge forces vehicles that hit it to “glide” along the angle and most end up hitting the wall that is on the right, further damaging the vehicle and injuring occupants. sad really cause there are NUMEROUS signs and warnings, and all drivers should know the hieght of the vehicle thay are driving.

  6. cmdr.sass says:

    It would be safer and pretty cheap to remove the bridge and convert it to a level crossing.

    • kriswone says:

      That is a train bridge, and with the amount of traffic, both cars and trains, it would not work out.
      there is more than enough warnings, there is even a sign that says NO TRUCKS.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        You could lower the road lane by lane.

        • Platypi {Redacted} says:

          Perhaps you hang some bars across the road ahead of the bridge, like they do in parking garages. I think the driver would have realized he had a problem when the first one went wanging off the bus, and the windows cracked.

          This is sad and avoidable. Condolences to the families.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Then you have idiots who wouldn’t stop for the train and would be demolished along with their cars/trucks/buses.

  7. myCatCracksMeUp says:

    This is sad. I don’t know if anything will ever convince people to stop looking at anything besides the road when they’re driving, but I think REALLY harsh penalties would help.

    I think the penalties for causing any accident, no matter how minor, should be very severe in the cases where the driver was not paying attention.

    • Mighty914 says:

      I’d say “not paying attention” is sort of a tough thing to prove. Besides, 90% of accidents are pretty much caused by at least one person not paying attention.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        I agree that probably 90% of all accidents are caused by at least one person not paying attention. And a lot of accidents that could happen because of one unattentive driver are averted by other drivers taking defensive measures.

        I also agree that it “not paying attention” might be hard to prove in all cases, but it is easy to determine if someone is using their phone, and in other cases there may be witnesses.

        • Mighty914 says:

          Yes, I would agree to that point if the “not paying attention” were caused by a cell phone or something that could be easy to prove. However, it might be more difficult to prove if it’s caused by someone adjusting his radio.

          I’d also agree with allisonann’s point about numerous road signs along the way. I was speaking more generally about it being tough to prove.

      • alisonann says:

        I think “not paying attention” is pretty easy to prove in a case where someone’s driving on a road with low-clearance warnings for miles.

  8. acknight says:

    The bridge in question has 12 signs, several of which are accompanied by flashing lights, along the path the driver took to get there. It’s nigh on impossible to miss… and if you think you can get a double decker bus under 10’9″ clearance, you probably should be institutionalized.

  9. Tim says:

    This is a parkway built in the 1920s. It was never meant for high-speed (the speed limit is 55 mph), four-lane traffic, complete with big trucks and buses.

    I say reduce the speed limit, add traffic calming measures and prohibit trucks and buses. No need to raise or remove the bridge.

  10. qbubbles says:

    There’s a low bridge at UVA and a dorm almost right above it. My friend who lived there told me that she’d get woken up from time to time by a serious shudder and a loud thud every time some moron hit the bridge at 2am.

    I dont know what’s worse, when someone didnt see the bridge and peeled back their tops or when they saw the bridge but just in time to pass the only turn around. Always had traffic, there. Pissed me off something fierce during high traffic times, but thankfully, no one was ever injured.

    • dolemite says:

      Heh, my dad and I had to turn his work truck around in the middle of the street because of that bridge. Perhaps we missed the signs, but by the time you see the sign that we saw of low clearance, you are in a bad place to try and turn around a big truck.

    • Anita says:

      Worst place to put a dorm room, ever.

  11. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I once rode Megabus from NYC to DC. The driver going to DC was on her cell phone the whole time complaining about the Chinatown bus drivers and the “Chinese boys” being so “damn efficient.” Meanwhile, she ran red lights and even missed a turn because she wasn’t paying attention.

    Then, she had the nerve to start arguing with another driver through her window, and even made a point of cussing him out.

    I take Bolt Bus now.

    • nextyearsgirl says:

      Bolt Bus FTW. I won’t take another service, especially from Boston to NY

      • jason in boston says:

        Amtrak out of South Station?

        • crackers says:

          I so deeply wish they would lower the price to travel by train. It is RIDICULOUS how expensive it is to get to NYC from Boston. Traveling Friday/returning Monday can run me anywhere from $125 – $250 round trip, and on Mega or Bolt I usually pay $30 or less round trip. So frustrating. I travel to NYC a lot, and hate, hate, hate the bus. Stupid bus.

          Sorry, just had to rant.

  12. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Great, now all the states will enact laws banning GPS units in vehicles. I can say goodbye to my wife now, I will never see her again.

    Instead of writing a new law every time something like this happens, just enforce the distracted driving laws already on the books.

    There are laws against using a cell phone without a hands free device and texting (but officer, I was checking my email not texting). What are both of these laws about? Distracted Driving. That applies to the bus driver. He was driving while distracted (playing with the GPS) and caused an accident. He is at fault but we do not need a new law to tell us not to use GPSs, just enforce what exists already

  13. syzygy says:

    If the driver was in fact looking at his GPS long enough to miss the (apparently numerous) warnings that his bus was too tall, then he should be charged with vehicular manslaughter. The man caused four deaths because he wasn’t looking at the road. This type of behavior will not stop until we sufficiently penalize the offenders.

    • ecwis says:

      The driver can’t be charged with vehicular mansalughter if he was not under the influence.

      • DarthCoven says:

        Where’d you pull that one from, Sparky? You don’t need to be under the influence to be charged with vehicular homicide/manslaughter. All they have to do is prove negligence or that you were performing an unlawful act (playing with your cell phone/gps while the vehicle is in motion, which IS illegal in many states)

  14. Ben says:

    If people keep hitting this bridge, why don’t they just make raise the bridge up higher?

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      It was explained above in the comments that it’s a train bridge, making it very difficult.

    • acknight says:

      That’s apparently been studied… in order to raise the bridge, they’d have to regrade the tracks 6 miles in both directions – which involves at least one other bridge, and a few grade crossings.

      Purportedly, the state DOT is planning a more permanent solution by 2015, but aside from no real turnaround once you’re on the road, there really is no excuse for missing 12 signs over the two miles or so before the bridge.

      • kriswone says:

        if they can’t turn a bus around on a four lane highway, they shouldn’t be driving. especially at 2:30 AM, there is very light traffic that time of night, well, besides the drunk drivers that is.

  15. silver-spork says:

    I’m originally from that area and there is probably at least one truck vs. bridge accident there per year.

    If the bus driver missed all of those signs and/or didn’t know what he could clear, he should be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

    • ecwis says:

      The driver can’t be charged with vehicular mansalughter if he was not under the influence.

      • DarthCoven says:

        Since you said it twice, I’ll say it twice:

        Where’d you pull that one from, Sparky? You don’t need to be under the influence to be charged with vehicular homicide/manslaughter. All they have to do is prove negligence or that you were performing an unlawful act (playing with your cell phone/gps while the vehicle is in motion, which IS illegal in many states)

  16. PSUSkier says:

    Just a thought, but why not put a hanging sign supported on a light metal bar about 1/4 mile away from the bridge? If a vehicle is too high it’ll take a nice thwack and probably damage, but surely more less than if they plowed into the bridge and is guaranteed to get the driver’s attention.

    • Turnabout is Flair Play says:

      I like this idea.

    • BeyondtheTech says:

      They’ve done that in my town and it so far has served as a great warning to those who would be stupid enough to continue through to hit the bridge.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I wish I’d thought of saying that. My hubby has a very large pick-up, a Ford F-350 super-duty – which is quite high. There’ve been entrances to a few parking garages that had what you proposed, and it saved him from real damge to the top of the cab. Of course – now he really understands how high his truck is, and doesn’t even try if the signs indicate the garage height is too low.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      Dang, I posted the same thing in a comment above, but you did it first. Seems 1 of these hung before you hit the last turn off and one shortly before the bridge would be a great solution. I wouldn’t expect this kind of tragedy to happen often, but saving 1 life would be worth it IMO.

  17. brendon says:

    I live here. This is indeed a tragedy. They say that it will cost a lot to raise the bridge and to lower the road, would put it closer to Onondaga Lake, which would make flooding more frequent.

    My suggestion was to put up a bar further up the road (each way) that the drivers would hit prior to the bridge itself. Similar to what most fast food drive-thru’s have.

  18. gtrgod01 says:

    I’ve see comments as to why they haven’t raised the bridge but why haven’t they thought about lowering the road? (maybe they have but I didn’t read all the articles).

    They have lowered roads in my area a few times to go under rail tracks etc… Seems to work fairly well, at least in my area.

  19. Grogey says:

    I have been by that bridge and its scary how low it is to the ground.

  20. tmac40 says:

    Make the road go over the bridge.

  21. AngryK9 says:

    Cue lawsuits in 3…2..1.

  22. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The driver was coming in from the east to Syracuse’s Regional Transportation Center (bus station) missed the exit he’d taken 9 times before, got lost, and was a mile away – heading west away from the Center – when the accident happened.

    I agree with others – the simplest safety solution is have a low hanging sign before the bridge. If you hit it then it’s clear you won’t make the bridge.

    • CalicoGal says:

      then distracted drivers will just hit the sign, say, “what was that?” go back to texting and keep driving ’til they hit the bridge!

  23. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    My best suggestion would be a big board on a pole about a mile from the bridge that would hit vehicles, but not strong enough to destroy/kill people, but wake up the driver with a impact.

  24. Jigen says:

    I live right around the corner, woke up to sirens going off at 2:30ish. Didn’t know what happened until looking at cnycentral later in the day.
    There really is no excuse for hitting the bridge, there are signs and flashing lights everywhere. Every now and then a delivery truck or tractor trailer still manage to hit it, but at least in those cases only goods are ruined, not lives.
    The bridge is just yards from the lake. No way to lower the road under it, unless you want everyone driving through Onondaga Lake. Maybe replace the bridge with one that can be raised and lowered, with gates that come down to block traffic?
    It shouldn’t really need to come to changing the road though. It is very clearly marked, and Old Liverpool Rd is right there running nearly parallel to it. People can blame the road and the bridge all they want for incidents like this, but in reality it just comes down to incompetent drivers.

  25. evnmorlo says:

    If it is that low there should be a heavy switch hanging over the road a few hundred feet earlier that activates a siren and flashing TOO TALL sign when it is hit.

  26. Winteridge2 says:

    This low bridge is well known in the area. Driver stated that he had made this trip about 20 times before (without going near the bridge). About 2-3 trucks hit this bridge every year. (May be the best-built bridge in the state). Railroad says it cannot raise the bridge, but why not LOWER the road under it?

  27. Cantras says:

    “Authorities are now waiting for blood tests on the Megabus driver and an accident reconstruction before deciding whether to press charges against the driver.”

    He hit a bridge and killed people because he was looking at a GPS, and they have to wait for the blood test to decide *whether to charge him* instead of *what to charge him with*?

  28. TPA says:

    Lower the road already! How many more deaths is it going to take? Aren’t there some form of road standards in NY which dictate what the lowest obstruction over a roadway can be?

    Don’t tell me they can’t lower it due to the lake — We’ve got tunnels that go under rivers in Florida, which has the highest water table out of any state.

    It’s very possible the bus driver wasn’t paying attention, but it’s also obvious that he isn’t the first to hit the bridge.

  29. TimothyT says:

    Having low bridges like this is asking for trouble. The reason being is that human beings make mistakes. No signage is going to stop this from happening. Yeah, it’s the bus drivers fault for not doing his job but if it’s happening and expected to happen again (it will) then who’s fault is it really? Either make the vehicles shorter or the bridges taller.

  30. LaurelHS says:

    A similar accident happened about two years ago in Washington, although there were no fatalities in that accident. The driver didn’t bother to look at signs warning of a low bridge because he was looking at his GPS.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/359497_bus18.html

  31. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Damn! Those busses pass right by Kalamazoo and though they don’t stop I was thinking about taking it to get around the northeast. Not so much now O_O

  32. Crass says:

    This guy’s has a website dedicated to these types of accidents occurring at a bridge where he lives. http://11foot8.com/

  33. Jigen says:

    On my way home tonight, heading the same direction the bus went, I counted 12 signs, 3 of them with flashing lights. Talk about an incompetent driver.

  34. Kevin says:

    I grew up in Syracuse. The whole area is unsafe; the parkway is old and doesn’t have any dividing barrier. Cars speed by and cross into the oncoming lane… there are tons of accidents every year. The bridge, however, should be of least concern given all of the explicit warning signs…

  35. agent211 says:

    I wouldn’t buy that for $1.