Improving Safety Across all Modes of Transportation

By Debbie Hersman
Today, I had the honor of speaking to the Aero Club of Washington, an audience of professionals from across civil aviation. It’s a great organization whose members have done much to improve aviation safety. I recognized them for the aviation community’s hard work, which has resulted in a very impressive safety record — no fatal air carrier accidents since 2009.

But, I pointed out to the Aero Club members that with some 34,000 annual fatalities across all modes of transportation, there’s a lot the NTSB does outside of aviation. Readers of this blog well know that in addition to aviation accidents, the NTSB investigates railroad, highway, marine and pipeline accidents.

The good news is that, while not as dramatic as the safety record of the U.S. airlines, there have been significant safety improvements in other transportation modes. I told the Aero Club about the following positive changes that have all come in the wake of terrible tragedies:

• The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority committed to implementing all of our safety recommendations following a deadly two-train collision in 2009.

• The surface transportation reauthorization legislation — known as MAP-21 — addressed another NTSB recommendation about transit safety and gives the Federal Transit Administration crucial safety oversight authority to set national transit standards.

• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees bus and truck safety, has taken an aggressive stand on bus safety, such as its recent one-day shutdown of 26 bus operations and has also implemented tough new rules prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones.

• NHTSA is addressing improved bus occupant protection and manufacturers are now voluntarily including seatbelts as standard equipment on new buses.

Yes, the NTSB covers all modes. Our goal: improved safety. But, more to the point: it’s about saving lives. You can read the full speech here.

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