Created by Congress, the National Transportation Safety Board, is an autonomous federal agency charged with investigating significant transportation accidents and providing safety recommendations to prevent future occurrences. Since 1974, the NTSB has operated as a separate entity, outside of the Department of Transportation’s umbrella, in an effort to provide unbiased information. The Transportation Safety Board investigates each civil aviation accident, as well as significant marine, railroad, pipeline, hazardous material, and highway events.
Each year, the Board releases a list of recommended transportation safety improvements for the coming year, called its “Most Wanted List” to highlight the need for safety enhancements to various transportation areas based upon its investigations and research. The list is then evaluated and acted upon by federal, state, and independent interests.
This year’s list contains two substantial issues: substance impairment and distraction. In a press release, NTSB’s Office of Public Affairs reports, “the new annual list of the independent federal safety agency’s top advocacy priorities calls for ending distraction in all modes of transportation. Distraction was the cause of multiple accidents investigated by the agency in recent years, and its deadly effects will only continue to grow as a national safety threat.”
According to NTSB Chairman, Deborah A.P. Hersman, “[NTSB is] releasing this list now so it is available to policymakers at the state and federal levels as well as industry groups as they craft their priorities for 2013. We want to highlight the results of our investigations and ensure that safety has a seat at the table when decisions are made.”
The top ten safety issues as identified by the NTSB for 2013 are listed below. (We have segregated highway safety concerns from other transportation recommendations, although some recommendations may overlap industries.)
Highway Travel Recommendations
- Take Steps to Maintain the Integrity of our Transportation Infrastructures
- Eliminate Substance-Impaired Driving Dangers
- Advance the Safety of Bus Operations
- Eliminate Distraction in All Modes of Transportation
- Improvement of Transportation Fire Safety
- Mandate Motor Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technologies for All Vehicles
- Improvement of Airport Safety and Surface Operations
- Improvement of General Aviation Safety
- Enhancement of Pipeline Safety
- Implementation of Positive Train Control Systems
As personal injury attorneys, we are pleased to see that six of the top ten recommendations concern highway safety, two address aviation safety, and that bus, train, and fire safety are also advocated. We are thrilled to see that distraction is being addressed across all modes of transportation, and that the issue of all substance-impaired driving, as opposed to only drunk driving dangers, is being highlighted. We also know that, with the proliferation of highway utilization, and the average age of our population increasing, issues such as transportation infrastructure and technologies will need to be at the forefront of our concern. Thankfully, we are not the only ones taking notice.
According to a PR Newswire release the American Trucking Association issued a statement offering strong support for the list, with CEO Bill Graves citing “impaired and distracted driving, the need to repair and improve the nation’s infrastructure and the benefits of active safety technologies as issues important to the trucking industry”.
The NSTB “Most Wanted List” has also created a buzz with insurance underwriters regarding collision avoidance technologies. In a recent article, written by Robert Regis Hyle for Property Casualty 360 addressing NSTB’s crash avoidance recommendations, Hyle interviewed two directors of insurance underwriting companies.
Director of America’s property/casualty practice for Celent, Donald Light, acknowledged that insurers have little influence with reference to automobile manufacturers practices, however he wisely suggests that insurers could influence policy through federal lobby efforts and advertising campaigns which would pressure auto makers by creating larger public product demand. This demand could also be generated if insurance companies offered reduced premiums for collision avoidance equipped vehicles.
Managing Director, Michael Costonis, employed with Accenture Property and Casualty Insurance Services, spoke to the trend toward insurers to limit loss through accident avoidance. In his opinion, the insurance trade “is going to become more proactive in the future as they try to anticipate what could happen and try to modify behavior before the claim event occurs”. He suggests that “pay as you drive” programs will continue to address motorist behavior.
Hyle cites, that “the NTSB believes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should establish performance standards where still needed and mandate that these technologies be included as standard equipment in cars and commercial motor vehicles alike. Their full life-saving and crash-avoidance potential will not be realized until supported by federal rulemaking and related standards”.
Briggs & Wholey attorneys are delighted with the content of this year’s NTSB “Most Wanted List”, and pleased to see that it is generating response. We look forward to seeing how various agencies and industries incorporate these goals into policy, strategies, and products for improved passenger transportation safety.
Photo Credit: dantada, Morguefile