Category Archives: Events

Remembering the Victims of Maryland Route 210

By Nicholas Worrell, Chief, NTSB Safety Advocacy Division

On June 25, I had the opportunity to represent the NTSB at the Route 210 “Dignity of Life” Observance in Prince George’s Country, Maryland, where I have spent most of my adult life. Although the observance had tragic roots, it was good to see some attention paid to the toll taken by crashes in this largely Black area.

After the jubilation of Juneteenth, it was a gut-wrenching reminder of one of our greatest remaining inequities as a nation. Statistics show that Blacks and other minority groups are disproportionately likely to die in crashes.

Total crash deaths skyrocketed to an estimate of almost 43,000 in 2021. If we are to reduce the surging totals, we must also be intentional about our efforts in these underprivileged, underserved, and vulnerable communities.

This solemn and dignified gathering was to remember the irreplaceable, individual human beings who have been lost, and continue to be lost, on Maryland Route 210. Eighty people have died in crashes there between 2007 and the present. One of them was the husband of my NTSB colleague Susan Pipkin. At the event, Susan’s daughter, Diamond, said, “He was just thrown from his motorcycle, and it shook our lives,” as she broke into tears.  Like bicyclists and pedestrians, motorcycle riders are vulnerable road users and are overrepresented in fatality statistics nationwide.

Every loss on our roads is a tragedy. Every one of these losses is preventable. And, as I said to the families of the victims, every one of their loved ones was an individual, irreplaceable, had dignity and humanity, and deserved to live.

At the NTSB, we investigate crashes in all modes of transportation. We focus on answering one question, the same question that family members also ask after such a tragedy: Why? Unlike victims’ families and loved ones, though, we must be as objective as possible and look at the same question from an investigator’s point of view. We strive to turn our findings into action by issuing safety recommendations. However, we can only recommend changes—lawmakers, industry, and others must act on them.

I have worked enough with victim and survivor advocates to know that these tragedies are not one-time events. The loss persists and reemerges in so many ways: every time they look across the holiday table to the seat their loved one used to take, every time there is a birthday or a wedding anniversary that they used to celebrate, whenever they go to dial a number to share something with someone who is forever disconnected.

As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, a notoriously dangerous time on our nation’s roads, there’s no better time to take stock of how we’re protecting road users in all communities. This means reflecting on all parts of the system, not just on the behaviors of drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and riders. We must adopt a Safe System Approach that builds in redundancy so that when one part of the system fails, road users don’t lose their lives. We owe all road users nothing less than our determination that one day, Maryland Route 210 will be another safe road in a safe system, one with zero road deaths and zero serious injuries. And we must ensure that we are making equitable safety investments.

We don’t lose 43,000 faceless statistics every year, we lose 43,000 loved ones. They are irreplaceable. They are precious. The lives of those left behind are shaken, forever changed.

The families I met on June 25 are members of a club none of them ever wanted to join. The best way to honor the life of Mr. Pipkin and the lives of countless others who perished on our roads is to close the door to the club forever.

Reflections on International Women’s Day

By Chair Jennifer Homendy

Who will be speaking? The Chair? What’s his name?

That’s what I overheard a reporter asking an NTSB employee just a few weeks ago. We were in Pittsburgh, where I was on scene for the agency’s investigation into the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge.  

I couldn’t help myself and jumped in with: “He’s a she…and it’s me!”

The reporter was mortified and apologized profusely. We shared a laugh and went on to have a great press conference.

NTSB Chair Homendy at a press briefing on the NTSB investigation into the collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Even though I responded with humor, that exchange was just one example of an unconscious bias that women encounter every day. Of course, unconscious biases can reflect one or more “-isms:” racism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, classism, etc. 

In all fairness to the reporter, he responded appropriately. By that I mean he acknowledged his mistake and apologized sincerely. He wasn’t defensive and he didn’t invalidate my reaction. His response showed real humility, which is why we were able to move on so quickly.  

What You Can Do

I offer two suggestions for small but powerful ways you can recognize International Women’s Day and #BreakTheBias.

First, accept that no one is free from unconscious bias. Work to become aware of the ways you may show your own “-isms” and do what the reporter did: own the error and offer a genuinely sincere apology. Fight the urge to say I didn’t mean it like that. The only way to ensure you do better next time is to respond with humility.

You can also be intentional about using words that communicate a sense of belonging. When backed up by action, the language we use can change the culture from one of exclusion to one of inclusion.

Women in Transportation

Increasing the representation of women in all transportation modes will go a long way toward combatting unconscious bias. Consider the following statistics:

  • Aviation: Women hold only 8.5% of FAA pilot certificates. Female flight engineers, 4.3%; mechanics, 2.6%; parachute riggers, 10.1%; ground instructors, 7.8%; air traffic controllers, 16.8%; dispatchers, 19.7%.
  • Highway: While 49% of all workers nationally are women, only 18% of infrastructure workers are women. Moreover, in 20 of the largest infrastructure occupations, less than 5% of workers are women. And 7.9% of truck drivers are women.
  • Marine: Women make up just 1.2% of the global seafarer workforce. While this represents a nearly 46% jump from 2015, it’s not nearly enough.
  • Railroad: Women hold less than 8% of rail transportation jobs and the latest Federal Railroad Administration report acknowledges that “recruiting and retaining a diverse representation of employees remains a persistent issue.”
  • Pipeline & Hazardous Materials: Over 80% of hazardous materials removal workers are male — and just 15% of civil engineers are women. As for pipeline, women make up 10.8% of the pipeline transportation workforce and 21.8% in natural gas distribution. Unfortunately, these numbers drop even lower when it comes to higher-paying technical jobs in the oil and gas industry.

We have work to do, including here at NTSB. Our latest state of the agency report showed that our female workforce is 7% below the civilian labor force — something I think about every day. I’m only the fourth woman to serve as Chair since the agency was created in 1966. This is a message I’ll be sharing at the upcoming International Women in Aviation Conference.

When I was appointed to lead the NTSB, I made the decision to be addressed as Chair Homendy. I didn’t make this out of personal preference, but for the next woman to serve in the role. Perhaps, if we de-gender the office, the fifth female Chair will have one less bias to break.  

February 20: International Day Commemorating Air Crash Victims and Families

By Elias Kontanis, Chief, NTSB Transportation Disaster Assistance Division

This year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) designated February 20 the International Day Commemorating Air Crash Victims and Families. Although ICAO has addressed various aspects of family assistance for decades, this is the first time a day has been set aside to remember and honor all who lost their lives in air disasters and their families.

ICAO’s interest in family assistance dates to 1976, with the inclusion of a recommended practice in Annex 13, the document that outlines standards and recommended practices for accident investigations. The following is a brief timeline of significant ICAO activities related to family assistance.

  • 1976: Contracting States (that is, countries) whose citizens are involved in a crash are granted access to information about the crash investigation and play a direct role in identifying their citizens. This recommended practice was strengthened to a standard in 2001.
  • 1998: The ICAO Assembly acknowledges that “the policy of the ICAO should be to ensure that the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of victims involved in civil aviation accidents and their families are considered and accommodated by ICAO and its Contracting States.”[1]
  • 2001: In response to Assembly Resolution A32-7, ICAO issues Circ 285, “Guidance on Assistance to Aircraft Accident Victims and their Families,” a keystone document for countries interested in developing family assistance programs. Circ 285 provides guidance on the various aspects of a comprehensive family assistance operation.
  • 2005: Provisions are included in Annex 9, “Facilitation,” to enable victims’ family members to expeditiously enter the State in which the accident occurred. Additional provisions address repatriation of remains and emergency travel documents for family members and accident survivors.
  • 2013: ICAO issues Doc 9998, “ICAO Policy on Assistance to Aircraft Accident Victims and Their Families,” and Doc 9973, “Manual on Assistance to Aircraft Accident Victims and Their Families.”
  • 2015: Annex 9 is further amended with Recommended Practice 8.46, which encourages Contracting States to establish legislation, regulations, and/or policies in support of assistance to aircraft accident victims and their families.
  • 2021: ICAO convenes its first International Symposium on Assistance to Aircraft Accident Victims and Their Families. This 3-day event, hosted by the governments of Spain and the Canary Islands, provides an opportunity for participants to share best practices and lessons learned to support the development of family assistance programs. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy and I were honored to participate as guest speakers at this important event.
  • 2021: ICAO’s Global Aviation Training Section begins developing a 3-day course designed to provide Contracting States, as well as aircraft and airport operators, the foundational knowledge to develop family assistance plans. The NTSB is a proud partner in this effort.
  • 2021: ICAO proposes elevating Recommended Practice 8.46 to a standard and developing a new recommended practice encouraging aircraft and airport operators to develop family assistance plans. Again, the United States stands with a significant number of other States in support of this initiative.

Through the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996, the United States committed to addressing the needs of passengers’ families following an aviation disaster. This commitment continues to grow. Today, the NTSB is the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal resources to support the families of air crash victims, as well as the victims of any other transportation disaster the NTSB investigates.

As family assistance specialists, my team and I work every day with the families of those lost in transportation crashes, trying to shed what light we can during some of their darkest days. We provide information during a time of uncertainty, address questions, and facilitate access to services that help loved ones navigate the loss they have suffered.

We have this charge in common with family assistance specialists all around the world, and we work collaboratively with international colleagues to enhance family assistance programs worldwide. We offer representatives of ICAO Contracting States seats in our family assistance course to help them develop or enhance their family assistance programs. We deliver presentations and participate in discussion panels overseas on family assistance, and we assist ICAO in developing its 3-day family assistance course.

Over the decades, the strength of survivors and victims’ families has humbled us. We have seen them organize not only to support each other through the grieving process, but also to advocate for change to enhance transportation safety so that others never have to face the same kind of loss.

We at the NTSB stand alongside our international colleagues in honoring the International Day Commemorating Air Crash Victims and Families. No traveler likes to ponder the possibility, however remote, that a flight will crash. But, if the unthinkable happens, the NTSB and our counterparts around the globe are dedicated to supporting crash survivors and family members.


[1] International Civil Aviation Organization. Assembly Resolution A32-7. Resolutions Adopted at the 32nd Session of the Assembly. Montreal, Quebec; Sept. 22–Oct. 2, 1998.

A Look Back on Teen Driver Safety Week 2021

By Bryan Delaney, NTSB Safety Advocate

Last month, as part of Teen Driver Safety Week the NTSB held two virtual roundtables to discuss the state of teen driver safety and graduated driver license laws (GDLs). While the dialogue was robust and yielded many critical insights, these events reminded us that one week isn’t enough to highlight the dangers associated with teen driving; to keep teen drivers safe on the roads, our focus must persist long into the future.

As advocates for teen driver safety, peers, parents, guardians, and mentors must continue to set a positive example, instill good driving behaviors during this learning stage, and work toward effective programming and policy that promotes teen driving safety.

We wanted to share some of the key takeaways from experts who participated in our two roundtables. If we heed their words, teen drivers will be safer on our roadways today and into the future.

Tara Gill, Senior Director, Advocacy, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

“Crashes are a leading cause of death for teens. And it shouldn’t be acceptable that thousands of teens are killed each year in crashes involving a teen driver. Traffic safety laws, vehicle safety technology, along with requirements and standards and road safety upgrades—this is the package we should be looking at. We must urge all states to give their GDL program a second look and prioritize changes to improve the programs.”

Haley Reid, National Vice President of Membership, Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA)

“Encourage students, and encourage parents, and encourage peers to take advantage of the opportunities provided for students who are part of FCCLA and other similar organizations.

Teens and parents should be part of the solution together.”

Shaina Finkel, National President, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) National

“Make yourself and your safety the first priority. You should always do what you know is right on the road and off the road.”

Kelly Browning, Executive Director, Impact Teen Drivers

“To parents, the number one influencer: be the driver you want your child to be.”

Rick Birt, President & CEO, SADD

“The power of peer-to-peer prevention is one thing I am going to walk away with today. We need to rely on them (teens leaders) to really be the mobilizer to reach all the other students in the hallways of our schools and streets in our communities. We need to invest in the peer-to-peer approach with adult allies to support them, cheer them on from the sidelines, and give them resources.”

Sandy Spavone, Executive Director, FCCLA

“We need to prioritize teen driver safety education and making it equitable and fair for all youth. We must invest in our next generation. Teen driver safety education needs to be a priority in the United States.”

Charlie Klauer, Research Scientist and Training Systems Lead, Division of Vehicle, Driver, and Safety Systems, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

“To teens and all drivers, keep your eyes on the road. Be patient and take things slow. There is no reason to go fast, no reason to look away and mess with other things. It is critical to pay attention and drive safe.”

William Van Tassel, Manager, Driver Training Programs, AAA National

“It’s all about vehicle choice. We need to make sure that our new drivers use the vehicle technology (collision avoidance technology) safely and effectively. It’s one thing to get it in their hands, but we have to take it another step as well. They have to be trained to use that. We know that most of these drivers are operating vehicles without a fully developed brain so there is a great temptation to consume vehicle technologies for a performance benefit rather than for a safety benefit, at least among younger drivers. To be able to counter that, they need to use them safely and effectively. In training drivers, that’s probably going to be perhaps our biggest issue over the next 20 years.

Pam Fischer, Senior Director of External Engagement, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)

“We can’t diminish the important role of parents. Graduated driver license laws are really parent programs that are designed to give them the minimum standards to shoot for. We have to make sure parents understand that and leverage GDL for all its worth, because it is a proven tool.”

Kenny Bragg, Senior Highway Investigator, NTSB

“For parents, become as involved as you can in your child’s transition to motoring. Give them the education, have conversations, and give guidelines. Do everything you can to ensure your child’s success.”

Rebecca Weast, Research Scientist, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

“I want to plug vehicle choice. There are lots of points of contact for parents and teens as they are going through the process of teens becoming a licensed driver. Vehicles should be a slightly larger vehicle, slightly heavier vehicle with a lower horsepower and it will limit their ability to do things that are risky. If it’s possible to put them into a vehicle with advanced safety features, parents and teens need to know how these features work.”

All our roundtable participants discussed the importance of education—educating parents, states, policymakers, and lawmakers—about the importance of a relentless focus on teen driver safety. After all, education plus action equals positive change.

Watch video of the roundtables here:

NTSB Roundtable on the State of Teen Driver Safety

NTSB Roundtable on the State of Graduate Driver License Laws

Teen Driver Safety: Education + Action = Positive Change

By Bryan Delaney, NTSB Safety Advocate

For most teens, receiving the car keys for their first trip alone on the road is a ceremonious moment—one that opens their world to freedom of mobility. For parents and guardians, however, this moment can be nerve-wracking. Unfortunately, the anxiety parents and guardians feel is justifiable, as traffic crashes continue to be a leading cause of death for teens. According to the most recent teen driver safety statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 205,000 young drivers were injured, and 1,603 young drivers died in traffic crashes in 2019.

Today marks the beginning of Teen Driver Safety Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness and seeking solutions to prevent teen injuries and deaths on the road. This week is critical to educate teens, parents, guardians, lawmakers, and the public on the risks of unsafe driving, and empower those individuals to make positive decisions and practice good driving habits behind the wheel. Although the week is focused on teens, it’s a good time to assess the role each of us plays in improving driving habits to ensure our roads are the safe.

The NTSB has long advocated for preventive measures that would mitigate or prevent teen driving-related traffic crashes, including eliminating distractions, fatigue, and impairment; reducing speeds; improving occupant protection; and implementing a robust graduated driver license (GDL) program. Throughout Teen Driver Safety Week, the NTSB will share helpful resources and engage with our stakeholders to educate the public on teen driver safety.

We’ve planned two roundtables this week to address specific NTSB concerns about teen driver safety and to share other important insights from experts in roadway safety.

Tomorrow, October 19, Member Thomas Chapman will kick off the NTSB’s Teen Driver Safety Week Roundtable Series with “The State of Teen Driver Safety.” This roundtable will bring together traffic safety advocates and experts to discuss critical issues and risks impacting teen drivers, effective programs to influence positive teen driving behaviors, and future strategies for reducing fatalities and injuries resulting from teen driving-related crashes. This roundtable will provide a national platform to amplify young people’s voices. Register here for the “State of Teen Driver Safety” Roundtable.

On Thursday, October 21, we will host a second roundtable discussion, “The State of Graduated Driver License Laws.” The NTSB has long advocated for comprehensive driver education and robust GDL programs by adding passenger restrictions, cell phone restrictions, and provisions addressing minimum driving practice and minimum holding periods. Driver education programs should help new drivers learn proper vehicle control and safe operating behavior when behind the wheel. This roundtable is an opportunity to bring together legislative experts and advocates to discuss teen driver education, GDL laws, and the policy strategies that can be used to improve teen driver safety. Register now for “The State of Graduated Driver License Laws” Roundtable.

Education and action are the key elements to creating positive change for teen drivers. Parents should model safe driving behaviors, laying out expectations and enforcing consequences if rules are broken. Parents have great influence over teen driving behaviors.

The NTSB is committed to advocating for driving measures that create the safest environment for teens to learn. Their first experience on the roadways should start with good driving behaviors that continue for a lifetime. Our Most Wanted List (MWL) of transportation safety improvements is designed to address our most critical safety recommendations; we encourage you to look to our MWL for ways to keeping not just new drivers, but all drivers safe.

We’re successful when teens, parents, caregivers, lawmakers, and the public—collectively—engage with teens on this issue, set a positive example, and execute strategies designed to prevent car crashes, injuries, and deaths.

Teen Driver Safety Week might last only one week, but our positive example and dedication to keeping our young people safe must continue all year, every year.