How the NTSB Wants to Reduce Auto Accidents in 2016
When a new year starts, it’s very common for people to make resolutions to improve their lives in the new year. Government agencies also often tend to set goals they’d like to achieve over the course of the new year, especially if it’s an agency with a focus on improving public safety. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is one such agency. The NTSB investigates and reports information about accidents involving many types of transit, including some types of motor vehicles, trains, aircraft, and ships. Recently, the NTSB announced their list of ten “most wanted” list of safety issues they want to focus on addressing in 2016 to reduce accidents.
Since the NTSB investigates accidents involving so many different types of transportation, many of their planned initiatives specifically relate to things like aviation and railway safety, but about half of them apply to all types of transit, including cars, commercial trucks, and other motor vehicles.
One of the top things the NTSB would like to do is bring down the number of fatigue-related accidents. Regardless if you’re operating a car, a semi truck, a ship, or an airplane, you need to be well rested to be able to operate it in a safe manner. Being fatigued slows down reaction times and makes it more difficult to keep up with all the mental demands involved with operating vehicles. Out of all the accidents the NTSB investigated between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2012, human fatigue was one of the most common causes of accidents, contributing causes of accidents, or probable causes of accidents. AAA has reported that 43% of drivers in the United States admit to having fallen asleep or dozing off while driving at least once.
Cutting down on distracted driving is another top priority for the NTSB. This is another issue that applies to operators of all types of transportation. An increasing number of people have a hard time disconnecting from their cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. According to the NHTSA, 3,179 people died in car accidents involving a distracted driver in 2014. Trying to do something like send a text message or dial a phone number takes your attention away from the road both visually and mentally, making it more difficult to focus on operating the vehicle and what’s going on around it.
It’s been well known for years how effective seat belts are at keeping passengers and drivers safe in the event of an accident, but too many people still resist using them and many areas still lack primary enforcement seatbelt laws for front and back seat passengers. As of 2013, almost half of all people fatally injured in car accidents were not wearing seatbelts. Not being properly restrained has also led to deaths in aviation and train accidents. In 2016, the NTSB hopes to get more people properly secured in vehicles through stricter laws, stronger law enforcement, education, and by improving existing restraint systems.
The NTSB has been a longtime supporter of the idea of using technology to prevent auto accidents. Technology like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, and collision warnings can all help cut down on the number of accidents caused by driver inattention. In 2015, many major automakers and federal agencies voiced their support for making this technology more accessible and the NTSB wants to make sure they follow through with their support. They hope to develop new performance standards for these types of technologies and advocate for making this technology available as standard features in cars.
Lastly, the NTSB wants to cut down on accidents caused by drug and alcohol use. Since alcohol and some types of drugs impair judgement and slow reflexes, they can make operating a vehicle of any type quite dangerous. The NTSB aims to cut down on impaired driving by advocating for lowering the legal BAC level for driving from 0.08 to 0.05, encouraging countermeasures against drunk driving, and increasing post-accident testing for drugs and alcohol. They also hope to raise awareness of how over-the-counter and prescription drugs can potentially impact a person’s ability to drive.
In addition to all of these safety issues, the NTSB is also aiming to improve rail transit safety oversight, prevent loss of aircraft control in general aviation, promote completion of rail safety initiatives, and expand the use of data and/or voice recorders to collect more information about causes of accidents. They also hope to create medical fitness requirements for people working in safety-critical positions in the transportation industry.