A wide range of safety improvements and updates need to be implemented across all modes of transportation, according to the latest Most Wanted List of safety concerns, recently released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The list for the year 2021-2022 still mentions some of the recommendations made in 2019, such as the need for an industry-wide mandate in regards to how to install collision-avoidance technology into commercial motor vehicles. The latest list also included the need for an efficient strategy related to methods of speeding-related collision elimination, distracted driving prevention, and the eradication of drug- and alcohol-impaired driving.
“The Most Wanted List defines the focus of the NTSB’s advocacy work,” said Chairman of NTSB, Robert Sumwalt. “It directs our limited advocacy resources toward improvements with the greatest potential to make the greatest impact on saving lives, reducing injuries, and preventing accidents and crashes.”
NTSB, an agency that works independently and aims to identify the factors feeding into roadway accidents and the best ways to implement safety solutions, unanimously adopted this most recent “Most Wanted List,” a decision which came after more than four hours of discussion, question-and-answer sessions, and staff presentations.
Every single member of NTSB’s board–currently only five people in total–must be confirmed by the Senate following their nomination by the president.
The final approval of this Most Wanted List by the board, and the recommendations that accompanied these major concerns, were “driven by data,” according to Sumwalt, who also added that all of these problems are currently “ripe for action.” Everything included in the Most Wanted List incorporated aspects of NTSB’s own research and investigations, he noted–especially data collected in regards to roadway incidents which involved impaired driving or speeding.
NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety director, Robert Molloy, noted that these are the crash causes that typically lead to the nation’s fatal accidents.
“Studies have shown that as many as 80% of crashes could have benefited from sensor-based collision-avoidance technologies, such as automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning,” Molloy explained. “All vehicles should have these systems available as a standard feature.”
NTSB’s most recent meeting, which involved presentations on investigations into previous accidents, came as a response to the issues regarding transparency that were brought to light by the Government Accountability Office. In 2020, GAO urged NTSB to thoroughly document all evaluations for every single concern mentioned on its Most Wanted List, and added that all criteria utilized for determining any issue as being “ripe for action” should be efficiently explained and communicated to the public.
If these efforts are not executed properly, the concerns on the list could fail to receive any sufficient solution-oriented efforts, according to GAO.
“If advocacy groups, industry associations, and others don’t know why NTSB is advocating for these particular safety issues and recommendations, that could affect their attention to and support for tackling the issues on the list,” GAO explained.
Additionally, to truly bring to light the problems on these lists that have been nationwide concerns for far too long, full explanation and communication with the public and industry members is key.
“Greater transparency in how issues are evaluated and selected could enhance users’ understanding of the list and help ensure the list continues to rally the support and resources needed to tackle difficult and long-standing transportation safety challenges.”
The discussions like these that take place during these board meetings, Sumwalt noted, always aim to lead to extensive and productive deliberation and problem-solving. He hopes that anyone who observed this most recent meeting–or any meeting of the board–can see that these discussions are indeed meant to be as productive as possible.
“If anybody thinks these board meetings are scripted, then you hopefully have seen the board actually [active] in our deliberations.” he said. “Nothing is pre-decisional. What you saw was our deliberations.”
Also on 2020-2021’s list of most-wanted improvements are: “vulnerable road user” protection efforts–especially for motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians; pipeline leak detection and mitigation improvements; rail worker safety upgrades; and passenger and fishing vessel safety improvements. Also needing major boosts, as mentioned by the list, are safety management technology installation on passenger-carrying flights, crash-resistant recorders, and programs regarding flight-data monitoring.