Happy (And Safe) Holidays


By Debbie Hersman
Earlier this month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the final traffic fatality numbers for 2011. Sadly, 32,367 people died on our roadways last year. However, this represents a decline of almost 2 percent from the previous year, continuing a steady decline in traffic fatalities in recent years. Additionally, deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 2.5 percent in 2011, claiming the lives of 9,878 people compared to 10,136 in 2010. Overall in 2011, the number of fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes was at its lowest level since 1949. This is an encouraging trend that we must all work together to maintain.

Of course, the 2011 fatality figures also reveal that we still have a great deal of work to do.

• Fatalities increased among large truck occupants, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcycle riders.

• Distraction-related fatalities increased.

• The proportion of traffic fatalities that are attributed to substance-impaired drivers remained stubbornly stuck at just over 30%, a figure that has gone virtually unchanged for nearly two decades.

You, too, can make a commitment to traffic safety over the holidays and in the New Year.

• Don’t operate any vehicle while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or fatigue.

• Stop, look, and listen at railroad crossings.

• Buckle up for safety … all passengers, all the time.

• Make sure child safety seats are properly installed.

• Put away phones and other devices and just drive.

• Wear a DOT-compliant helmet when riding a motorcycle.

• Model good driving for your children.

Start 2013 off right by choosing to celebrate New Year’s Eve safely. Happy (and safe) holidays to all!

How Are You Recognizing Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience Month?

By Debbie Hersman

Damaged bridge rural America FEMA

This is Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience Month. This December, President Obama has called Americans across the country to maintain our commitment to keeping our critical infrastructure and our communities safe and resilient. In his proclamation, the President reminded us that, “Our Nation’s critical infrastructure is complex and interconnected, and we must understand not only its strengths, but also its vulnerabilities to emerging threats.”

At the NTSB, we focus on one part of that infrastructure – transportation. Every day, Americans rely on transportation infrastructure to take children to school, travel to work, take vacations and to obtain daily necessities, including food, clothing and energy. We know firsthand how important our transportation infrastructure can be to families and communities, as so many of our fellow citizens experienced in New Jersey and New York after the devastating effects of Super Storm Sandy.

The absolute importance of transportation to our economy and quality of life is why preserve the integrity of our transportation infrastructure is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List.

What should be done to preserve our transportation infrastructure? Our accident investigations have revealed that inspection guidance that incorporates all elements of the structure, proper maintenance and use of available technologies all have a role to play. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that whenever decisions are being made about infrastructure, safety must have a seat at the table.

Here’s a snapshot of the scope of our nation’s infrastructure:  In 2010, 4.2 trillion passenger miles were traveled on our nation’s roadways. Domestic freight traffic carried by air, truck, rail, water and pipeline totaled more than 4.3 trillion ton-miles. That means there are literally trillions of reasons to maintain the integrity of our roads, runways, waterways, rails and pipelines.

Turning Around Wrong-Way Driving

Wrong Way DrivingBy Debbie Hersman

In just the last week, 11 people lost their lives in nine wrong-way collisions that happened in California, Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and two in North Carolina. Eight other people were seriously injured.

Wrong-way collisions are among the most lethal types of accidents on our nation’s highways because they are frequently head-on accidents with closing (combined) speeds in excess of 100 mph.

Each year, there are about 250 fatal wrong-way collisions on high-speed divided highways, such as interstates and expressways. These crashes take the lives of nearly 400 people and injure thousands more. Last year, the NTSB initiated a special study to better understand the factors that cause these tragic events.

Tomorrow, investigators will present their findings based on nine wrong-way collisions investigated by the NTSB, a comprehensive review of wrong-way driving research, and an analysis of data from thousands of these types of accidents that have occurred around the country.

With this information, we’ll be able to consider safety recommendations that, if implemented, could prevent many future such accidents. And, that’s the start of turning around this particularly dangerous hazard on America’s roadways.