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January 16, 2014

NTSB unveils 2014 Top 10 'Most Wanted' improvements

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its 2014 Most Wanted List, the top 10 advocacy and awareness priorities for the agency for 2014, which for the first time includes improving operational safety in rail transit.

The NTSB in the past year has opened investigations into accidents involving New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro-North Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority and Oakland, Calif.-based Bay Area Rapid Transit District. Additionally, there are still open safety recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stemming from its fatal crash in 2009.

In numerous accident investigation reports on public transportation, the NTSB has repeatedly identified the need for safety improvements, particularly with regard to safety culture and operational practices, in systems providing light, heavy and commuter rail.

"The traveling public relies on a safe and efficient transportation system. Yet, every year, we see over 35,000 fatalities," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "That's why we have the Most Wanted List: Steps we can take today, so that more people make it home tonight."

Occupant protection is also new for 2014. While preventing accidents is always the goal, saving lives and reducing injuries in the event of an accident, is also critical. Increasing the use of available occupant protection systems and improving crashworthiness to preserve survivable space can mean the difference between life and death.

Also on the list:

Distraction: Accident investigations and safety studies conducted by the NTSB in all modes of transportation underscore the dangers of using portable electronic devices while operating a car, train, plane or marine vessel. In addition to banning the use of these devices while driving, education and company policies help to reinforce laws and regulations by explaining the dangers of distraction and what companies expect from their employees.

Fire Safety: The NTSB has issued numerous recommendations where fire was caused by power sources, as well as recommendations on survivability in the event of a fire and improving fire detection and suppression systems.

Positive Train Control (PTC): The NTSB has long been calling for PTC, which works by monitoring the location and movement of trains, then slowing or stopping a train that is not being operated in accordance with signal systems or operating rules. Just since 2004, the NTSB has completed investigations of 25 train accidents that killed 65, injured over 1,100 and caused millions of dollars in damages, all of which could have been prevented or mitigated by PTC.

Substance-Impaired Driving: In 2012 more than 10,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. involved an alcohol-impaired driver, according to NHTSA. Drugs also affect driving ability.

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