By Debbie Hersman
Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board announced our 2014 Most Wanted List of critical changes needed to reduce transportation accidents and save lives. We publish this list of ten issues annually, but this was the first time we made our announcement at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The TRB has been at the forefront of transportation research for decades, so it was fitting for NTSB to announce our 2014 Most Wanted List at their meeting. TRB’s conference theme was “Celebrating Our Legacy, Anticipating Our Future” and there is so much to celebrate: transportation is safer than ever. But with more than 35,000 transportation-related fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, we can, and must, do better.
Expectations for safe transportation are as woven into our lives as the things we do at home each morning: wake up, shower, dress for work, make coffee. When we put our children on the school bus or we board a train or we get in our car to drive to the office, we take the safety of our trip for granted. Unfortunately, at the NTSB we focus on those devastating occasions when something does go wrong. That’s why we have the Most Wanted List. These are steps we can take today, so that more people make it home safely tonight.
The Most Wanted List covers all modes of transportation. The ten issues are based on NTSB investigations and safety studies, and the list is then approved by our five-member board. These issues are by no means the only important transportation safety issues. However, they are the areas we feel are most in need of increased awareness, dialogue and action right now.
This year we are highlighting four new areas – helicopter safety, passenger vessel operations, safety in rail mass transit, as well as improved occupant protection. And in a fifth, General Aviation Safety, we’re sharpening our focus to improve awareness of weather hazards.
Five areas remain from our 2013 list: impaired driving, distraction in transportation, fire safety, pipeline safety and positive train control.
We’ve already begun work on initiatives and actions that will directly support the important issues we’re highlighting on our Most Wanted List today. Not everybody will like every action we take, and not everybody will agree with what we say; but the NTSB speaks for the traveling public, so we are engaging every stakeholder – including the traveling public – in an ever-broadening conversation on these issues.
The NTSB Most Wanted List is our roadmap for 2014. If decision makers use this list in taking action to make transportation safer, for travelers leaving the house each morning, it will be much more: it will be the safe path home.