Ten Ways to Improve Transportation Safety

By Debbie Hersman

Next Wednesday is the single-busiest travel day in the United States. AAA projects 43.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more during next week’s Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including 39 million people in automobiles. That’s more people in cars than live in Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Montana combined.

That’s a lot of people on the road. Tragically, it also means a lot of empty seats at Thanksgiving tables since, historically, about 500 people have been killed in highway crashes during the long holiday weekend.

In my eight years at the NTSB, I have been at 19 major accident scenes. There is nothing that makes the point about the importance of family and friends than seeing how things change in the blink of an eye.

Things can change that quickly.

But, we can do better.

Doing better to improve the safety of transportation is part of the NTSB mission. Over the years, the NTSB has investigated thousands of accidents across all modes of transportation. The Most Wanted List focuses on areas where critical changes can reduce transportation accidents and save lives. This week, we unveiled the new list for 2013.

Several items on the 2013 list address improving highway safety:

Eliminating Substance-Impaired Driving

Eliminating Distraction in Transportation

Improving Fire Safety in Transportation

Improving the Safety of Bus Operations

Mandating Motor Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technology

Preserving the Integrity of Transportation Infrastructure

The new Most Wanted List also addresses four other aspects of transportation safety:

Improve the Safety of Airport Surface Operations

Improve General Aviation Safety

Implement Positive Train Control Systems

Enhance Pipeline Safety

I’ll be writing about all ten areas in future blog posts. But, you can start to improve transportation safety right now with the choices you make, such as buckling up, choosing not to drink and drive and by putting attention back in the driver’s seat.

Your actions could be the difference between a full table and an empty seat at the Thanksgiving meal. At the NTSB we have the opportunity to make transportation safer and save lives, but each one of us has the opportunity to make better choices — now, that’s something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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