In the Driver’s Seat: Counties Can Enhance Transportation Safety

NTSB Member Mark R. Rosekind with Benton County Commissioner Leo Bowman, Chairman of the National Association of Counties’ Transportation Steering Committee after Member Rosekind’s remarks at the annual conference.

By Mark R Rosekind

As trends go, state and local governments are becoming increasingly responsible for many aspects of transportation safety. This includes the 3,077 counties across the United States. On Saturday, I spoke at the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) 77th Annual Conference in Pittsburgh about the NTSB, its investigation process, on-scene activities after an accident, and ways in which to make travel safer in counties across America. It was a great opportunity to familiarize a broad and important cross-section of the nation’s local leaders with the NTSB should a transportation tragedy happen in their area.

NACo is the only national organization representing county government and its meetings provide a unique forum for over 2,000 elected officials to learn more about organizations and issues affecting their counties, network with colleagues, and educate themselves about innovations across the country. Although counties have an array of various responsibilities depending on the state they are in, some duties are universal, especially enhancing transportation safety. While it is the NTSB’s mission to make safety recommendations to prevent accidents from recurring, local leaders know that being prepared for the possibility of a major transportation accident in their county is critical.

I addressed NACo’s Transportation Steering Committee, charged with guiding the organization on diverse matters related to transportation safety; project development and financing; comprehensive transportation planning; highways; public transit; airports; railroads; waterways; and research and development of new modes of transportation. An area that I highlighted was the integrity of our nation’s infrastructure using pipeline safety as an example and focusing on the PG&E San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion and Enbridge Marshall, MIchigan, oil spill. One concrete action for participants: ensure that their first responders know where pipelines are located in their county, what is transported through them, and contacts/actions needed to address a problem.

It was clear from my discussion with NACo members and staff that all counties are feeling the pressure to fill funding gaps, especially in the area of transportation safety. As state and local governments continue efforts to enhance transportation safety, their interests directly intersect the NTSB and its mission. By increasing dialogue, partnerships, and information sharing with community leaders in counties, towns, and cities, everyone will reap tremendous long-term benefits for making America a safer place to travel.

Mark Rosekind, Ph.D., is a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board. He is a frequent contributor to the NTSB blog.

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