STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — With the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic placing public health at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s important not to neglect other key aspects of public safety, such as transportation.
Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation safety, released its annual Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements, outlining 10 ways in which air, rail and road travel could be made safer in the United States.
“The Most Wanted List, the NTSB’s premier advocacy tool, identifies the top safety improvements that can be made across all modes to prevent accidents, minimize injuries, and save lives in the future. These issue areas are ripe for action now; if addressed, they would make a significant impact,” according to the NTSB.
Here’s a look at the NTSB’s 10 Most Wanted transportation safety improvements.
Distractions are responsible for a large percentage of incidents across various modes of transportation, whether it be distracted drivers, pilots, sea captains or train operators.
The NTSB hopes to eliminate transportation-related distractions through a combination of education, legislation and increased enforcement.
The board’s recommendations to eliminate distractions mainly center around banning the use of electronic mobile devices, such as cell phones, whenever operating a vehicle.
Marketing campaigns and increased enforcement should accompany any new laws put in place, ensuring knowledge of the rules and compliance across as many vehicle operators as possible.
END ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG IMPAIRMENT IN TRANSPORTATION
As many know, alcohol and other drug impairment plays a major role in endangering travelers, whether it be by car, plane, train or ship.
“We want to continue to see states adopt per se BAC limits of 0.05 percent or below, as well as broaden their use of other effective countermeasures, like ignition interlock devices and high-visibility enforcement,” according to the NTSB.
While drunk driving usually gets the bulk of the attention, it’s important for the United States to also implement new laws aimed at preventing the operation of vehicles while impaired by other illicit or prescription drugs.
“We want a national drug testing standard for passenger vehicles and stronger screening and toxicology testing in commercial transportation,” the NTSB said.
ENSURE THE SAFE TRANSPORTATION OF HAZARDOUS WASTE MATERIALS
Transportation doesn’t only mean transporting people.
In some cases, it means the transportation of valuable, yet hazardous, goods that must be delivered carefully to avoid any negative impacts on the environment.
With that in mind, the NTSB has urged the pipeline and railroad industry to implement additional safety measures to ensure the safe delivery of these crucial natural gases and flammable liquids.
“We are calling on the railroad industry to meet existing federal deadlines for replacing or retrofitting rail tank cars, and on the pipeline industry to conduct adequate risk assessments. Failure to meet safety standards by — or ahead of — deadlines places communities near railroads or above pipelines at an unacceptable risk,” according to the NTSB.
FULLY IMPLEMENT POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL
Positive Train Control (PTC), an advanced system designed to automatically stop trains before a crash occurs, was supposed to be installed on all trains by Dec. 31, 2018, following a congressional mandate.
However, rail lines were granted a two-year extension to implement the systems, with just 25% of passenger route miles and just 60% of passenger locomotives having met the criteria to date, according to the board, which urged the further implementation of the systems.
“PTC must be fully implemented before the extended deadline to ensure the safety of railroad passengers and the people who live and work near railroads,” according to the NTSB.
IMPLEMENT A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO REDUCE SPEEDING-RELATED CRASHES
Study after study has shown that higher vehicle speeds lead to more injuries and higher fatality rates in vehicle crashes.
With that in mind, the NTSB has presented a multi-faceted plan to reduce speeding-related crashes through a combination education, enforcement and technology.
“Proven countermeasures — including automated enforcement technology, vehicle technology, infrastructure design, and education campaigns — must be used more broadly to reduce speeding-related crashes,” according to the board.
IMPROVE THE SAFETY OF PART 135 AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS
Part 135 aircraft flight operations refer to non-scheduled charter flights of air taxi services, which currently are not required to adopt the same safety standards as Part 121 operators, who pilot pre-scheduled flights.
To ensure the safety of both the aircraft operators and their passengers, NTSB urged these operators to adopt and adhere to similar safety protocols.
“All Part 135 operators should implement safety management systems and flight data monitoring programs that address the unique risks associated with their operations, and the FAA should ensure compliance with standard operating procedures,” according to the NTSB.
INCREASE USE OF COLLISION AVOIDANCE SYSTEMS
Collision avoidance systems, which help deter car accidents using advanced technology, should be made standard on all new vehicles, according to the board.
“Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury in the U.S., and many of them could be prevented with collision avoidance systems that are already available,” the NTSB said.
REDUCE FATIGUE-RELATED ACCIDENTS
While much has been made in recent years about the negative effects of impaired and distracted driving, fatigued driving also poses a serious risk for vehicle operators, particularly those working long hours.
“We are calling for a comprehensive approach to combating fatigue in transportation, focusing on research, education, and training; technology; sleep disorder treatment; hours-of-service regulations; and on and off-duty scheduling policies and practices,” according to the NTSB.
REQUIRE MEDICAL FITNESS
Certain medical conditions, like obstructive sleep apnea, often go undiagnosed, but can present a real danger for long distance vehicle operators.
Obstructive sleep apnea can cause daytime drowsiness, sometimes resulting in dangerous conditions as vehicle operators can begin to doze off at a moment’s notice.
To minimize the issue, the NTSB is calling for mandatory obstructive sleep apnea screening and treatment, if necessary, for all rail and highway personnel in “safety-sensitive positions.”
STRENGTHEN OCCUPANT PROTECTION
Occupant protections, like seat belts and child safety restraints, are crucial to keeping passengers safe while traveling.
To promote the use of these live-saving measures, the board has urged all states to enact laws requiring all passengers to wear seat belts, regardless of whether they’re sitting in the front or back of the vehicle.
Vehicle manufacturers are also encouraged to develop enhanced vehicle safety designs intended to improve occupant safety.
“The Most Wanted List is our road map from lessons learned to lives saved. We urge lawmakers, industry, and every American to learn more about what they can do to implement and champion these critical safety improvements,” according to the NTSB.