Safety Board’s List Of “Most Wanted” Improvements Targets Distracted, Tired Drivers

When you hear the words “most wanted,” the first thing to come to mind is probably a list of (alleged) criminals being sought by the authorities. But when the National Transportation Safety Board releases a “most wanted” list it takes on an entirely different meaning: a list of the top 10 transportation safety improvements on the roster for the new year. 

The agency released that list today, emphasizing work to be done to reduce dangers that can affect all modes of transportation, from vehicles to passenger trains.

“The NTSB Most Wanted List highlights safety issues identified from the NTSB’s accident investigations,” the agency says in a brochure on the priorities [PDF].

The priority list is intended to increase awareness of, and support for, changes needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives.

Issues addressed by the “most wanted” list include:
• Fatigue-related accidents — Combating fatigue requires a comprehensive approach focused on research, education and training, technologies, treatment of sleep disorders, hours-of-service regulations, and on- and off-duty scheduling policies and practices.

• Protection from cellphone distractions — Strict rules minimizing the threat of distraction must be embraced by every operator on every trip. Removing unnecessary distractions is the first step in safely operating any vehicle.

• Automated braking or collision-avoidance systems — Collision avoidance technologies for passenger and commercial vehicles could prevent crashes or minimize their impact, and should be standard equipment on all new vehicles.

• Improved rail transportation safety oversight
— Rail transit systems must constantly be monitored and improved to maintain and enhance safety, to catch small problems before they become big ones, and to provide extra layers of protection against disasters.

• Occupant protection — Needed improvements include increased use of existing restraint systems, and better design and implementation of occupant protection systems that preserves survivable space and ensures ease of evacuation.

• Loss of control in flight in general aviation — Pilots can reduce these accidents through education, technologies, flight currency, self-assessment, and vigilant situational awareness in the cockpit.

• The completion of rail safety initiatives — Avoid further delays of laws and regulations that require implementation of Positive Train Control and improved tank car design to prevent ruptures.

• End substance impairment in transportation — Impaired driving now involves drugs — including prescribed and over-the-counter medicines — that can affect your ability to drive or operate any vehicle. More and better data will help us understand the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of countermeasures.

• Medical fitness for duty — NTSB has recommended comprehensive medical certification systems for safety-critical transportation personnel to ensure that these professionals are medically fit for duty before operating a vehicle.

• Use of recorders to enhance transportation safety — No single tool has helped determine what went wrong more than recorders. Yet, certain categories of aircraft, trains, ferries, and buses are still not equipped with these critical technologies.

The Wall Street Journal points out that with the exception of the item to “improve loss of control in flight in general aviation,” which is targeted toward small private aircraft, NTSB did not specifically address needed improvements in passenger airlines. The omission of such directives could be a sign of steadily improving safety statistics for carriers.

NTSB Releases Wish List for Transportation Improvements [The Wall Street Journal]