By Nicholas Worrell, Chief, NTSB Safety Advocacy Division
Last week, the NTSB hosted a group of students from around the world who are studying or pursuing higher education degrees in traffic safety. They came to us through the International Roads Federation (IRF) Fellows Program, which works to develop transportation safety leaders worldwide.
The students were from diverse cultures—Lebanese, Iranian, Japanese, Colombian, Libyan, Mexican, Palestinian, and Brazilian—but they had one thing in common: they were all studying at universities in the United States.
It was an honor to be chosen by the IRF to help develop and grow these fellows. The group got to hear from Jim Ritter, Director of Research and Engineering; Lisandra Garay-Vega, Supervisory Transportation Specialist; David Pereira, Vehicle Factors Investigator; and several of our lab experts.
In transportation safety, we often ask how we can change safety culture? This question applies in one way to organizations, looking at how a company’s culture might influence a driver’s actions of a driver. This kind of safety culture is widely studied but involves only the minority of accidents/crashes. Most crashes involve everyday drivers operating personal motor vehicles. How do we change the safety perspectives of everyday drivers? We start with investing in young leaders like those who joined us during the visit.
In the United States, we lose more than 40,000 lives every year as a result of accidents and crashes in all modes of transportation. Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, we lose more than 1.35 million people every year on the roads, alone. When it comes to traffic safety, to truly change our safety culture, we must start with the younger generation. We must invest in ways to teach young children how to be safe on the roads long before they get behind the wheel for the first time. And we must invest our time in working with students like the IRF fellows, supporting their efforts to design transportation systems that protect all road users, not just those inside a motor vehicle.
At the NTSB, we strive to encourage and develop young safety leaders—teaching them to build bridges for others to cross, lay stepping stones for others to walk upon and shoulders for them to stand upon. Our core value of excellence goes beyond our central mission of issuing safety recommendations; it also applies to excellence in the service of others. In advocacy, it demands we pass along information to young leaders who will carry the mantel with a goal of safer transportation worldwide. We wish them well and lots of success.