Government Issues

NTSB's Most Wanted List focuses on technology

Posted on January 14, 2016

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) unveiled its 2016 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements, calling it a “road map from lessons learned to lives saved.” The list focuses on 10 broad safety improvements on which the NTSB has made recommendations that have not yet been implemented.

Several items on the list demonstrate the importance of technology in saving lives, preventing accidents and lessening the number and severity of injuries from accidents. For example, the list calls for promoting both the availability of collision avoidance technology in highway vehicles and the completion of rail safety initiatives to prevent accidents. The list also calls for strengthening occupant protection in all modes of transportation, including laws mandating primary enforcement of seat belt use and age-appropriate child restraints.

The NTSB called for completion of rail safety initiatives, including the implementation of positive train control (PTC). A 2008 law mandated implementation of positive train control by the end of 2015. Congress changed the law and implementation deadline late last year to avoid a possible rail transportation shut down.

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart cited the PTC implementation as an example of why a sense of urgency is needed in implementing Most Wanted List improvements. “Every PTC-preventable accident, death, and injury on tracks and trains affected by the law will be a direct result of the missed 2015 deadline and the delayed implementation of this life-saving technology,” Hart said.

The NTSB’s push to improve rail transit safety oversight was in part a result of the agency’s investigation of a deadly smoke event last January near Washington’s L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. The accident exposed many safety issues, some of which resulted from shortcomings in the safety oversight of WMATA. This year, the NTSB will continue to examine the way that the Federal Transit Administration is implementing such oversight — not only in Washington, but nationwide.

Distraction (especially from portable electronic devices) and fatigue continue to be serious safety issues in all modes of transportation, and the NTSB’s 2016 Most Wanted List addresses them all. The list also notes that undiagnosed and untreated medical conditions have caused or contributed to accidents and calls for operators and regulators to require medical fitness for duty.

To view the press conference for the full list, see below.

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