Highway Issues Dominate NTSB's 2013 Most Wanted List

Six of the 10 items involve highway travel in some way, including substance-impaired driving and distractions.

The National Transportation Safety Board released its 2013 Most Wanted List on Nov. 14, with six of the 10 issues focused on highway travel where most transportation fatalities take place. The new list calls for ending distraction -– a new issue area for this annual list -- not just in driving, but in all transportation modes. "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 the agency.

"Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can and must do better," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The Most Wanted List is a roadmap to improving safety for all of our nation's travelers."

The American Trucking Associations' president and CEO, Bill Graves, applauded the choices. "The NTSB Most Wanted List identifies a number of areas where the Board and ATA have a shared interest in improving highway safety," he said. "ATA has long been an advocate of reducing impaired and distracted driving on our highways. Truck drivers are already subject to ATA-supported bans on texting and hand-held cell phone use, but ATA firmly believes these bans should be extended to drivers of all vehicles. Similarly, our industry is a leader in combating impaired driving, as seen in our early advocacy of mandatory drug and alcohol testing and remarkably low violation rates, particularly when compared to the rest of the motoring public. But we can always do better.

"Two areas where we can do better in fighting impaired driving are through the use of hair testing of regulated drivers to detect illegal drug use and in the creation of a clearinghouse to better track drivers' drug and alcohol test results," Graves added. He said he supports NTSB's call for doing more to ensure U.S. infrastructure is safe and efficient. "Even though we just saw a highway bill signed into law, it was woefully underfunded and will do little to improve our infrastructure. Well-built and maintained roads are key to improving safety," he said.,/p>

Fire Safety Item Added
The other five new issue areas on the list are fire safety in transportation, infrastructure integrity, pipeline safety, positive train control, and motor vehicle collision avoidance technologies. "We're releasing the 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," Hersman said. "We want to highlight the results of our investigations and ensure that safety has a seat at the table when decisions are made."

The fire safety item's backup material cites the Wilmer, Texas, motorcoach accident and fire in 2005, with 23 deaths; a 1996 fire in the laundry area of a passenger ship near Juneau, Alaska, with five deaths; and three cargo aircraft fire accidents during the past six years. "Recognizing that fire safety issues can be unique to certain modes, vehicle types, or operating conditions, it is necessary to address each case individually. There is, however, a common need in all modes of transportation for detecting a fire, or impending fire, as early as possible," it states. "The installation of fire detection devices in the engine rooms of marine small passenger vessels could provide an early warning to the crew. For motorcoaches, having the capability of monitoring temperatures in the wheel wells could prevent an impending tire fire. In cargo aircraft, detecting fires before they begin to burn through the cargo containers could provide the crew additional response time."

The 2013 Most Wanted List:

  • Improve safety of airport surface operations
  • Preserve the integrity of transportation infrastructure
  • Enhance pipeline safety
  • Implement Positive Train Control systems
  • Eliminate substance-impaired driving
  • Improve the safety of bus operations
  • Eliminate distraction in transportation
  • Improve fire safety in transportation
  • Improve general aviation safety
  • Mandate motor vehicle collision avoidance technologies

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