WASHINGTON D.C. – The National Transportation Safety Board has released its “Most Wanted List” for 2014. This list includes the agency’s top 10 areas for safety improvements when it comes to planes, trains and automobiles.
“Steps that we can take today so that more people make it home safely,” says chairman Deborah Hersman. “Every year we have more than 35,000 fatalities in transportation in the United States, we can and must do better.”
New to the list this year, the NTSB plans to step up promotion of operational safety in rail mass transit. This comes after several fatal train accidents, including one Dec. 1, 2013. Four people died after the train derailed in the Bronx.
“Passenger rail is safe for the overwhelming majority of riders and employees who work on those systems, but our investigations have pointed out ways to make it even safer,” Hersman says.
“We focus on those rare and disastrous situations when things don’t go as planned.”
Among the changes he hope to see is rail line operators focusing more on safety, which they hope will prevent accidents. They want transit agencies to better their understanding of human error during accidents and near crashes so crews can avoid tragedy on the rails.
The NTSB also wants to see train operators move into the 21st century, so Hersman pushed for the implementation of positive train control systems. The system, which has been slow to catch on, uses sensors and global positioning systems to automatically slow down or stop trains in near accident situations.
“Positive train control might have prevented the accident in the Bronx,” she says.
When it comes to rail, they are also pushing for newer cars with improved structural design and crash worthiness. WMATA is unveiling several new cars that will be running in the D.C. area, but NTSB hopes all old cars retired sooner rather than later.
Also on the list is eliminating distraction in transportation. The NTSB says no matter what you are driving — a car, a plane or a train — if you are using portable electronics, the danger of an accident increases. The agency will help reinforce current rules and regulations in 2014 and help employers convey the dangers to their employees.
They also want to see more transportation providers improve fire detection equipment and want to see them better prepared if a fire were to break out.
Another big one is substance-impaired driving. It used to be drinking a driving was the number one issues, but now more and more crashes involve drivers on drugs at the time of the accident. Here they plan to encourage stronger laws and offer help to law enforcement in combating the issue.
Board member Mark Rosekind says right now we have the breathalyzers for those driving drunk but “we don’t have anything unless blood tests for the substance impaired part of it.”
He says right now, many police departments have a small number of drug recognition experts on staff, but more are needed.
The board also hopes to see more communication among pilots and air traffic controllers when it comes to bad weather. A frequent cause for aviation accidents, according to the NTSB, is hazardous weather.
After numerous helicopter accidents, NTSB is calling for a list of new safety regulations for helicopter operators and more training and regulation in this area of aviation.
Natural gas pipeline safety also made the list, as many interstates in the nation have a pipes running underneath them at various point. Among their recommendations is for government agencies and pipe line operators to better test and inspect lines so problems are found before they turn into a catastrophic failure.