Surface Transportation Safety: A Paramount Priority

By Debbie Hersman

Vice Chairman Hart testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Vice Chairman Hart testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

On Tuesday, NTSB’s Vice Chairman Hart had the opportunity to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Highways and Transit at a hearing focused on ways to improve the effectiveness of the federal surface transportation safety grants programs.  He highlighted the surface transportation issues included on the recently-announced NTSB 2014 Most Wanted List and our ongoing efforts to address those and other transportation safety concerns. 

It’s not always clear how federal grants affect our daily lives, but consider your drive to work this morning.  Driving on our Nation’s roadways remains the deadliest form of transportation.  For more than two decades, our Most Wanted List has highlighted lessons learned from our investigations to address driver impairment, vehicle design and safety, improvements to our infrastructure, and technological solutions to reduce transportation accidents and related injuries and deaths.  Vice Chairman Hart’s testimony emphasized the role that these issues should play in developing grant programs.  And those grant programs as well as other federal policies lead to technology in your car, such as low tire pressure warning systems, and roadway infrastructure, such as rumble strips to warn you when you are about to leave the road.  Those grants result in stronger traffic safety laws and enforcement to encourage seat belt use and prevent distracted driving.

 Sadly, the number of deaths and injuries from crashes on our highways continues to be a national tragedy; more than 33,000 people died and more than 2 million more were injured in 2012 alone.  Too many lives lost in events that could be easily prevented.  That is why the 2014 Most Wanted List will continue to emphasize critical changes needed – eliminating distraction, reducing impaired driving, and improving occupant protection – to make true reductions in these numbers.  Improved motor carrier oversight, combatting driver fatigue, improving technology, and improvements in highway design can also have lasting impacts on reducing deaths and injuries. 

 The safety issues and the accidents discussed at yesterday’s hearing are a reminder that there is still much to be done to improve the safety of highway transportation.  The safety of the traveling public needs to be a top priority.  Only through continued emphasis on safety in federal surface transportation policies can the nation effectively tackle a leading cause of death.  We have the facts; we only need the will.

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