Arriving Soon: Fully Implemented Positive Train Control

By Member Jennifer Homendy

December 31, 2020—not only will it be the last day of an incredibly challenging year that I think we’ll all be happy to put behind us, it’s also a significant day for railroad safety. It’s the final deadline for all 41 railroads to fully implement Positive Train Control (PTC). It’s been a long journey to get to this point and I’m thrilled to see the great progress that’s been made over the years. There were times no one believed we’d get to where we are today, so how did we get here?

PTC is a communications-based system designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents occur. It won’t prevent all train accidents, like vehicle-train accidents at grade crossings or those caused by track and equipment failures, but it is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and train movement through switches left in the wrong position.

The concept of PTC isn’t new. In fact, the NTSB has been urging railroads to implement PTC in some form—and federal regulators to mandate it—for over 50 years. Our first recommendation related to PTC (Safety Recommendation R‑70‑20) was issued following a deadly train collision in Darien, Connecticut, in August 1969, when two Penn Central commuter trains collided head on, killing 3 crew members and 1 passenger, and injuring 43 others. Twenty years later, the NTSB included PTC on its first Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements (MWL), and, with the exception of 4 years following enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA; Public Law 110-432, Division A), it’s remained on the list to this day.


Before the passage of the RSIA, we had been recommending this lifesaving technology for decades, yet little action had been taken to implement its use. Even the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is the federal agency charged by Congress with ensuring “the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority,” had rebuffed repeated NTSB calls for implementing PTC, asserting that the technology was too expensive and that it would provide little safety benefit—a claim that was seemingly inconsistent with the August 1999 Railroad Safety Advisory Committee report, Implementation of Positive Train Control Systems, which found that, out of a select group of 6,400 rail accidents that occurred from 1988 to 1997, 2,659 could have been prevented if some form of PTC had been implemented.

Most people who follow the history of PTC will say it was the 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth, California, that really brought PTC to the attention of Congress, but that’s not entirely true. In fact, it was a string of PTC‑preventable accidents that occurred in the early to mid-2000s that finally caused the issue to make headway. Six of these accidents were accidents that we investigated in 2004 and 2005. They occurred in Macdona, Texas; Graniteville, South Carolina; Anding, Mississippi; Shepherd, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; and Texarkana, Arkansas.

The ones I remember most were Macdona and Graniteville; they were, in part, the reason the PTC mandate applies, not just to main lines over which passengers are transported, but also to main lines over which poisonous or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous materials are transported.

On June 28, 2004, a Union Pacific (UP) freight train struck the midpoint of a BNSF freight train traveling on the same main line track as the BNSF train was entering a siding. Chlorine escaping from a punctured tank car immediately vaporized into a cloud of chlorine gas that engulfed the area. The conductor of the UP train and two Macdona residents died as a result of chlorine gas inhalation. About 30 others were treated for respiratory distress or other injuries related to the collision and derailment.

Just 6 months later, on January 6, 2005, a Norfolk Southern train transporting chlorine encountered a misaligned switch that diverted the train from the main line onto an industry track, where it struck an unoccupied, parked Norfolk Southern train, killing the 28-year-old train engineer, Chris Seeling, and eight others as a result of chlorine gas inhalation. About 554 people suffering from respiratory difficulties were taken to local hospitals; 5,400 others within a 1-mile radius of the derailment site were evacuated for several days.

Both accidents were preventable with PTC.

I wasn’t at the NTSB at the time. I was serving as staff director of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials. Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) had just been named chairman of the committee, and one of his first acts as chair was to launch a series of hearings focused on rail safety. (Coincidentally, the subcommittee’s first hearing on the topic was the first time Chairman Sumwalt, then an NTSB board member, testified before Congress.)

One of those was a field hearing held in March 2007 in San Antonio, Texas, where Ralph Velasquez, a resident of Macdona, described his family’s escape from “the cloud of chlorine” and the tremendous physical, mental, and emotional toll the accident had taken on his family and the entire community. Mr. Velasquez’s words were similar to those of Chris Seeling’s parents, who had visited me and Chairman Oberstar months earlier. Both families wanted action, including implementation of NTSB recommendations.

Two months later, Chairman Oberstar delivered on his promises. The House approved legislation that mandated longstanding NTSB recommendations and established a deadline for PTC implementation. The Senate passed its bill in 2008, and we were in the process of finalizing a bipartisan, bicameral bill to include PTC when a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 people in Chatsworth, California.

The tragedy in Chatsworth—which the NTSB later determined was preventable with PTC—gave the legislation its final push, and in October, the RSIA was signed into law, mandating PTC implementation by December 31, 2015. This deadline was later extended by Congress to 2018, and then again by the FRA on a case-by-case basis to 2020.

Since the RSIA was signed into law in 2008, the NTSB has investigated 25 accidents that would’ve been prevented had PTC been implemented, including the overspeed derailments of Amtrak passenger train 188 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which killed eight people onboard, and Amtrak passenger train 501 near DuPont, Washington, which took three lives and injured more than 50 others. In all, since that first accident investigation in 1969, over 300 people have been killed and almost 7,000 others have been injured in 154 accidents that the NTSB determined could have been prevented if PTC had been operational. When people think about the 2008 mandate and how long it’s taken the railroads to implement that mandate, they get frustrated with Congress for extending the deadline, but what they fail to remember is, if it weren’t for congressional action, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The railroads wouldn’t have implemented PTC voluntarily.

Today, PTC data submitted to the FRA is looking far more positive than in the past. Since I joined the Board in 2018, I’ve visited or spoken to a majority of the 41 railroads regarding their PTC status, and they’re mostly reporting good progress. Most railroads are expected to meet the end-of-year deadline, and I’m cautiously optimistic that all 41 will succeed.

Because of the NTSB’s tireless advocacy, beginning long before I joined the Board, and the hard work of our investigators, the finish line is at last in sight. Our investigators work diligently to prevent tragedies like Macdona and Graniteville from recurring. If Chairman Oberstar was alive today, he would call them heroes for their dedication and for all they’ve done to save lives.

Today marks 154 days until the latest deadline for PTC implementation. That’s also the number of PTC-related accidents we’ve investigated over the years. For the rest of this year, stay tuned to our social media channels, where we’ll share information daily about each of the accidents (look for #PTCdeadline). These accidents are a reminder of how much we’ve lost while waiting for the implementation of PTC.




Remembering Marshall, Michigan

By Member Jennifer Homendy

This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of one of the largest and most expensive inland oil spills in our nation’s history.

At 5:58 p.m. on July 25, 2010, a 30-inch diameter pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge ruptured, releasing nearly a million gallons of heavy crude oil into Talmadge Creek, which feeds into the Kalamazoo River – a tributary of Lake Michigan – and flowed about 35 miles downstream before it was contained.

Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Rupture and Release, Marshall, Michigan, July 25, 2010
The ruptured segment of Line 6B in the trench following the July 25, 2010, rupture. The fracture face measured about 6 feet 8.25 inches long and was 5.32 inches wide at the widest opening. The fracture ran just below the seam weld that was oriented just below the 3 o’clock position. A red circle shows a location where the coating was wrinkled and had separated from the pipe surface.

Although numerous alarms were triggered in Enbridge’s control center, located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, control center staff failed to recognize a rupture occurred for well over 17 hours, until an outside caller contacted the control center. Enbridge attributed the alarms to an earlier planned shutdown and column separation (a vapor-liquid void), and instead re-started the line twice for a period of 1.5 hours, pumping massive amounts of oil (81 percent of the total release, or over 600,000 additional gallons) into the pipeline. Once Enbridge realized there was a release, it was too little too late. Enbridge had only four maintenance personnel on scene; the closest trained responders – their oil spill response contractors – were 10 hours away.

At the time, I served as the Democratic Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the U.S. House of Representatives, which had jurisdiction over the safety of oil and gas pipelines in the United States. About 24 hours after the rupture, the Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Jim Oberstar, and Congressman Mark Schauer who represented Marshall, Michigan, asked that I travel to Marshall and lead the Committee’s oversight investigation of the spill, which is different than an NTSB investigation (for example, we looked at claims and HIPAA violations).

I wish I had the right words to describe what it was like when we arrived in Marshall. Utter devastation doesn’t seem to do it justice. Oil blanketed the creek and river, the river’s banks, and flood plains, severely impacting the environment. Rescue and rehabilitation efforts for oiled birds and wildlife continued for months; river restoration went on for years. Clean-up costs totaled $1.2 billion, and Enbridge received the largest civil penalty for a Clean Water Act violation in U.S. history, and the second-largest penalty overall, after Deepwater Horizon.

July 25, 2010, Marshall, Michigan pipeline rupture
Cleanup efforts in an oil-soaked wetland near the rupture site. Saturated soil complicated the cleanup and excavation efforts. An excavator with a vacuum attachment is shown situated on wooden matting near the rupture site.

While, thankfully, no lives were lost, people lost homes and businesses, as well as income, and about 320 residents suffered symptoms consistent with exposure to crude oil.

Perhaps the most memorable moments for me were with the residents in Baker Estates in Battle Creek, Michigan, a community of about 70 mobile homes right along the river. I walked the oil-saturated river banks with them and was invited into their homes to hear about financial and medical impacts of the spill. See, no one evacuated the mobile home park. In fact, no one evacuated anyone along the river. County health officials issued a voluntary notice for homeowners to self-evacuate, which was noted in the NTSB accident report.

Meanwhile, NTSB’s investigation focused on the cause of the rupture and the oil spill response. NTSB’s former chairman Debbie Hersman was on scene. I ran into her and Peter Knudson, who is still a crucial part of NTSB’s media relations team, eating dinner one night in Marshall. Who knew we’d one day work together at the agency?

Through the investigation, the NTSB identified numerous gaps in Enbridge’s integrity management program, control room operations, training, and leak detection. To address the multitude of deficiencies, NTSB recommended that the pipeline industry develop an industry standard for a comprehensive safety management system (SMS) specific to pipelines.

Years later, I’m pleased to say that the industry didn’t just meet the intent of our recommendation; they exceeded it with the development of API Recommended Practice 1173, which also focused on safety culture and other safety-related issues. Since then, many pipeline operators have adopted and implemented the standard. The NTSB is working to encourage others, from the largest pipeline operators to the smallest municipalities, to implement SMS.

NTSB’s oil spill response investigation identified issues with the advance preparation and execution of the response that could be traced to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) regulations implementing the Oil Spill Prevention Act of 1990.

The PHMSA-approved Enbridge facility response plan did not provide for sufficient resources to deal with an oil spill of this magnitude. Furthermore, the NTSB investigation found that the severity of the oil spill could have been minimized had Enbridge focused more on source control and used oil containment methods that were appropriate for the environmental conditions. In response to NTSB recommendations, PHMSA undertook an effort to update the regulations and harmonize them with U.S. Coast Guard regulations for oil spills in navigable waterways.

Overall, there were a lot of safety gaps identified because of the Marshall spill. The NTSB’s work and the Committee’s oversight investigation led to a series of hearings that culminated in passage of sweeping legislation in 2011, which is still being implemented, albeit slowly, a decade later.

But looking back, a decade later, well after our investigators have left the scene, our final report has been issued, and recommendations are being acted upon, I think about the residents of Baker Estates and the other communities and business owners that suffered tremendous losses. For them, the work is just beginning, and Marshall will never be forgotten.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten because when the industry fails to learn from previous accident investigations and fails to make necessary changes, those accidents and the underlying issues that caused them are destined to repeat themselves.

In fact, as I sat down to write this blog, I recalled our 2005 safety study on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) in pipelines. SCADA systems are essentially a computer system that allows control center staff to monitor and control the pipeline from a remote location. The study was prompted by 12 hazardous liquid accidents investigated by the NTSB in which leaks went undetected after indications of a leak were provided on the SCADA system: Brenham, Texas (1992), Gramercy, Louisiana (1996), Fork Shoals, South Carolina (1996), Murfreesboro, Tennessee (1996), Knoxville, Tennessee (1999), Bellingham, Washington (1999), Winchester, Kentucky (2000), Greenville, Texas (2000), Chalk Point, Maryland (2000), and Kingman, Kansas (2004).

Fork Shoals was eerily similar to Marshall. The pipeline owned and operated by Colonial Pipeline ruptured, releasing nearly one million gallons of fuel oil into the Reedy River and surrounding areas at Fork Shoals. Like Marshall, the SCADA alarms and alarm messages had activated, and the controller acknowledged them, but he failed to recognize that a rupture had occurred and continued pumping more and more fuel oil into the line after several shutdowns and re-starts. And like Enbridge, Colonial knew of the corrosion in the line in the months leading up to the rupture.

If you’re on the fence on SMS, I hope this prompts you to take heed and not wait for a rupture to occur to act.


NTSB Office of Rail, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations Director, Rob Hall, contributed to the writing of this blog.

EAA AirVenture is Off, but Our Focus on Summer Flying Safety Remains

By Aaron Sauer and Michael Folkerts, NTSB Air Safety Investigators

In normal times, many NTSB staff—including investigators and Board members—would be participating at the world’s largest general aviation (GA) event this week: Experimental Aircraft  Association’s (EAA’s) AirVenture 2020. The event is held annually in late July in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and features hundreds of seminars, presentations, and workshops—including many delivered by NTSB investigators—focused on safety and current flying trends. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person event was canceled this year, and that means we aren’t able to share our NTSB safety messages in person with the throngs of AirVenture eventgoers. So, we’re turning to this platform to highlight some of the lessons learned and safety messages we planned to discuss at AirVenture 2020.

EAA ImageOne speaker slated to join us in a panel discussion was Mike Patey, the pilot of the famous “Draco,” a Pzl Okecie PZL104, that experienced a loss-of-control accident in Reno, Nevada. We determined the probable cause of the accident to be a failure to maintain bank control during takeoff in gusting crosswind conditions, resulting in a loss of control in flight and subsequent impact with terrain. Fortunately, Patey had built a very rugged airplane and took extraordinary steps to make a potential crash survivable, and neither he nor his two passengers were injured. We were pleased that Patey was willing to share his story during our panel discussion, and, even though that panel won’t be taking place, you can head to his YouTube channel to hear him share it. His accident serves as a reminder that, as we take to the air this summer, we need to ensure we’re prepared to mitigate loss-of-control scenarios, especially in the event of stall recovery.

Loss of control in flight in which weather is a key factor remains a significant safety concern for the GA flying community. This safety issue has been featured on the past three iterations of our Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements (MWL). To mitigate any potential loss-of-control incidents, GA pilots should ask themselves the following before taking to the air:

    • Have I thought about and trained for possible loss-of-control scenarios?
    • Am I proficient and up to date on all aspects of my airplane?
    • Am I aware of risks so I can avoid ending up in a loss-of-control situation?

Flight instructors should also ensure they practice stalls in a variety of scenarios with their students.

Another reason for loss of control involves distractions. Personal electronic devices in the cockpit have become a real and growing threat to safety. Eliminating distractions, not just in aviation, but in all transportation modes, is another issue on our current MWL. We know that pilots involved in GA operations are more susceptible to distraction-related accidents because they are subject to minimal federal regulations, such as the “sterile cockpit” rules seen in commercial airline operations. We believe that all pilots should keep distractions to a minimum, regardless of FAA requirements.

Mike Folkerts and Aaron Sauer talk with guest speaker and acrobatic pilot Patty Wagstaff
Mike Folkerts and Aaron Sauer at EAA AirVenture in 2019 talking to Patty Wagstaff, an NTSB panelist.

Although we could not participate in AirVenture this year to share our safety concerns in person, we urge all pilots to consider the following important safety tips to prevent in-flight loss of control and other avoidable tragedies:

    • Properly train and maintain currency in the aircraft you operate.
    • Maintain proficiency on how to avoid stalls and consider adopting available technologies that provide you with greater awareness, such as angle-of-attack indicators.
    • Take advantage of available commercial trainers, type clubs, and transition training opportunities, as they are an excellent way to improve your knowledge and abilities.
    • Don’t forget about the risks associated with unaddressed maintenance issues. Staying vigilant regarding your aircraft’s airworthiness could be the difference between life and death.
    • Safety restraints can make a difference in the event of an accident. Have your restraints examined by a mechanic or manufacturer to verify that they meet required specifications. Replace the restraint systems if the examination deems it necessary. If your airplane is not equipped with shoulder harnesses, install them if possible. (Note: “Strengthen Occupant Protection” is also an issue area on our current MWL).

We hope to see you at AirVenture next year! For more safety tips, check out our NTSB GA safety alerts here:

New Hours-of-Service Rule Relaxes Critical Safety Regulations

By Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg

Would you get tired after driving for 8 hours straight? What about after driving up to 11 hours, even with a short rest break? Suppose your vehicle weighed 80,000 pounds and was 80 feet long—would that require just a bit more alertness and finesse than the family car?

Trucks are an essential part of the supply chain, but their human drivers are just as susceptible to fatigue as the rest of us. To meet the needs of the country during this current pandemic, some trucking regulations have been relaxed to meet the unexpected, increased demand for goods and services. I understand the need to make some temporary adjustments to meet the nation’s needs; however, unfortunately during this time, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also completed a 2-year effort to permanently relax hours-of-service (HOS) rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers. The new final rule puts commercial drivers—and those with whom they share the roads—at increased risk.

Fatigue is a pervasive yet preventable problem impacting transportation safety. Tackling fatigue requires a comprehensive approach focused on research, education, training, technology, sleep disorder treatment, HOS regulations, and on- and off-duty scheduling policies and practices. At the NTSB, we are troubled by the relaxed rules that ignore this approach. The FMCSA’s final rule uses terms like “safety-neutral” and “without adversely affecting safety”; and the US Department of Transportation’s press release optimistically adds that the rule will “improve” and “increase” safety. But the science doesn’t support those claims. The FMCSA euphemistically claims that the changes “enhance flexibility” so drivers can stop when they feel tired; the reality is that humans are exceedingly poor at self-assessment, especially when a paycheck is involved, and will push beyond reasonable endurance. The fact that a driver has successfully (and luckily) driven fatigued for hundreds of trips absolutely does not guarantee that the next one will have a happy ending.

The new final rule relaxes the HOS regulations in several ways.

    • It expands the short-haul exception from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles, and increases the allowable duty day from 12 to 14 hours.
    • It expands the driving window during adverse driving conditions by up to an additional 2 hours.
    • It requires a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time), and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break. That might include loading or unloading, which could be even more tiring than driving.
    • It modifies the sleeper berth exception to allow a driver to meet the 10-hour minimum off-duty requirement by spending at least 7—rather than at least 8— hours in the berth, and a minimum off-duty period of at least 3 hours spent inside or outside of the berth.

Bluntly speaking, the increase in allowable miles from home base for short-haul drivers is a loophole you could drive a truck through.

We understand that economics matter in this debate, and we know most drivers only get paid when the wheels are turning. But we don’t believe any dollar amount is worth a human life. And we aren’t alone in wanting to put safety first in the trucking industry—the Teamsters, who have a vested interest in full employment, recognize the value of ensuring driver safety and have also come out against these changes to the HOS rules. We should point out, too, that trucking companies that have addressed fatigue beyond simply complying with HOS regulations have experienced fewer crashes and seen fewer fatalities as a result of driver crashes. For example, after a fatigued driver caused a fatal truck crash in Cranbury, New Jersey, in 2014, Walmart Transportation introduced a fatigue management program that exceeded regulatory minimums with effective sleep management protocols. By investing in safety, proactive companies like Walmart have actually improved their bottom line.

The HOS rules are somewhat complex, but sleep science is not. Fatigue degrades a person’s ability to stay awake, alert, and attentive to the demands of safely controlling a vehicle. Humans can become fatigued under the conditions the final rule allows. Fatigue is a manageable threat to transportation safety that can be mitigated through reasonable company safety practices and individual responsibility. Understanding this, the NTSB has recommended for decades that the FMCSA tighten enforcement of fatigue regulations, implement sleep apnea screening, set science-based maximum HOS, develop sleep management programs, and deploy electronic logging devices for all commercial truck drivers.

June 16, 2018, Construction Zone Multivehicle Collision, in Boise, Idaho.
Postcrash photograph of vehicles under Cloverdale Road overpass; view is looking west, toward the 2019 Volvo truck that began the crash sequence of the June 16, 2018, construction zone multivehicle collision, in Boise, Idaho. (Source: Idaho State Police)

These HOS rule changes come at a time when new data show trucking fatalities increasing. Between 800 and 900 drivers lose their lives on the road each year, and the risk only begins with the truck driver. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what happens when a fatigued trucker collides with a minivan full of children, construction workers on the road, or commuters on an intercity bus. Just look at our recent investigations involving fatigued truck drivers—one in Boise, Idaho, and another in Elmhurst, Illinois. The NTSB has investigated too many preventable tragedies to remain silent on this critical issue. At a time when truck-related fatalities are increasing, how many of your family and friends are you willing to sacrifice to an exhausted trucker? We should be doing more to improve trucking safety, not relax it.

Scene views of six of the vehicles at final rest on eastbound I-290, involved in the March 1, 2018, multivehicle collision, in Elmhurst, Illinois.


Reduce Fatigue-Related Accidents is on the NTSB 2019-2020 Most Wanted List.



Fatal Distraction: The Dangers When our Eyes Aren’t Faithful to the Road

By Member Jennifer Homendy

In my senior year of college I worked part-time as a “hot walker” for a trainer at a racehorse track. One afternoon, a coworker asked if I wanted to leave for lunch and grab a sandwich at a local deli. The last thing I remember before the crash was getting in her car, pulling the shoulder strap of the seat belt across me, and realizing that the buckle attachment was missing. I remember being worried; it was snowing, but somehow, I rationalized that I’d be fine because we were only going a few miles down a rural road where few cars traveled.

The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance and, soon after, arriving at a hospital, where a team of medical professionals were focused on the large, deep gash across the top of my head (and later, a concussion), which apparently occurred when I hit the windshield. These are injuries I never would’ve sustained had I been wearing a seat belt. My most vivid memory from that afternoon was the priest who worked his way between the medical staff to ask who he could contact on my behalf. While writing this blog, I asked my parents about that phone call. As the parent of a tween now, I can’t imagine how devastating it must have been to get a call about their child being involved in a major car crash and needing to get to a hospital that was two states away.

As for my coworker who was wearing a seat belt—she broke her arm when she threw it between me and the dashboard during the crash. Fortunately, the woman who hit us suffered only minor injuries. I found out later that she had taken her eyes off the road to pick up a wallet that fell on the floor of the passenger side of her car. She veered into our lane and hit us head on.

Distractions like the one that resulted in my crash aren’t new, but nearly 30 years later, as we’ve become more connected, our behavior toward them has gotten far worse. The technological advancements over the past couple of decades, in many ways, have improved and enriched our daily lives. Think of all the things we can do that were unimaginable in a pre-smartphone world: we no longer have to drive to the bank to cash a check, wait in line for coffee, or even visit the grocery store. With our time yielded back, we spend endless hours staying connected to others by text or video chats, or by browsing social media—to the point where we (particularly young people) become addicted to our devices.

So, why is this a problem on our roadways? Distractions like eating, reading, shaving, and picking up a wallet while driving are now compounded by our urge to respond to a barrage of phone calls, texts, and alerts on our smartphones—devices that are, in fact, designed to capture our attention. And, not surprisingly, research shows that humans aren’t good at multitasking. As a result, people are dying. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted-driving crashes killed 2,841 people in 2018, including 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists who are particularly vulnerable because they don’t stand much of a chance when colliding with a 4,000-pound vehicle.

“Eliminating Distractions” has been on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements since 2013, and it isn’t going anywhere until we see a significant reduction in distracted-driving-related fatalities. States also recognize the problem; some have banned the use of handheld devices altogether, while others have at least banned texting while driving. Short of full cellphone bans, though, drivers can still make calls on speaker, which only results in cognitive distraction.


I think we all forget how big a responsibility operating a vehicle is and the potential harm that can be caused to us, our loved ones, and others when we allow ourselves to become distracted. Please, let’s all remember that we must remain vigilant while driving. Safe driving requires 100% of a driver’s attention, 100% of the time, so put down the phone or the bagel or the makeup. Let the wallet stay on the floor until you’re parked. No distraction is worth a human life.