Category Archives: Events

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.

A Safe System Approach to Traffic Safety Roundtable

By Member Thomas Chapman

An estimated 42,000 traffic deaths occurred in 2020. This is an alarming number.

From 2014 to 2019, overall traffic fatalities increased by 10 percent.  Over the same period, however, annual traffic deaths among vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists) jumped from 9,935 to 12,062— a 21 percent increase. If you only look at pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, there was a 25 percent increase in fatalities from 2014 to 2019. So, disproportionately, increasing numbers of vulnerable road users are being killed on our roadways. We must do more to reverse this upward trend.

In April, we adopted our 2021–2022 Most Wanted List. The list includes a new safety item, Protect Vulnerable Road Users Through a Safe System Approach. With traffic fatalities trending in the wrong direction, it’s appropriate to evaluate how we approach roadway safety. At the NTSB, we’re focusing our attention on a Safe System approach.

How is a Safe System approach different?

Traditionally, as we have tried to mitigate and prevent crashes by changing individual human behavior, we’ve sought to convert everyone into perfect drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. We try to reduce injury severity by increasing occupant protection and improving crashworthiness. We tend to put roadway safety in the hands of each individual road user, rather than taking a holistic approach. We’ve seen tremendous safety improvements through the years, such as developing safer vehicles, and we have seen a significant decline in motor vehicle occupant deaths over decades. But the overall trend is not downward, especially not for those outside of motor vehicles.

A Safe System approach focuses on injury severity by seeking to eliminate death and serious injury. In exchange, some less severe crashes are more tolerable. Instead of trying to make us all perfect drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists, a Safe System approach assumes that we all make mistakes and emphasizes methods to prevent these mistakes from causing deaths or serious injuries. Human vulnerabilities are accommodated by managing kinetic energy through engineering, design, and policy. We also acknowledge that road safety is a shared responsibility among road users, designers, planners, engineers, corporations, and policy makers.

That’s why, next week, we’re hosting an NTSB MWL Roundtable: A Safe System Approach to Traffic Safety. We recognize the need to educate others about what the Safe System approach is and to emphasize that Safe System—which underpins Vision Zero policies and initiatives—can’t be merely a slogan; it must integrate all proven safety countermeasures. Our virtual roundtable will highlight the key elements of the Safe System approach and will kick off our safety advocacy actions on this issue for the next two years.

What should you expect from the roundtable?

We have a very strong lineup of panelists planned for the event. An expert from Sweden— the birthplace of Vision Zero—will discuss the origin, history, and principles of a Safe System approach. Other panelists will provide national, state, and local perspectives on implementing a Safe System approach, and we’ll discuss the elements of such an approach—safe roads, vehicles, road users, and speed, as well as post-crash care. Member Jennifer Homendy, along with NTSB staff from the offices of Highway Safety and Research and Engineering, will also share their perspectives.

Want to learn more about the roundtable?

Visit our event page, A Safe System Approach to Traffic Safety (ntsb.gov). The event is open to the public. Register for the roundtable. You can also submit a question for the panelists by writing to NTSBSafeSystemRoundtable@ntsb.gov.

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: https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-alerts/Pages/default.aspx.

Teen Drivers: Don’t Take Your Return to the Road for Granted

By: Nicholas Worrell, Chief, Office of Safety Advocacy

We recently announced the launch of a new #SafetyReminder campaign to provide the traveling public with a few friendly reminders as unprecedented stay-at-home restrictions are eased and we slowly resume air, rail, road, and marine travel.

During this return to “normalcy,” we’re especially concerned about young drivers. That’s why we partnered with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to host a virtual get together to reach out to teen drivers and their parents.

It’s an understatement to say that 2020’s young drivers have seen a lot in a short time. Like the rest of us, teens have done their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus through self-quarantine, protecting both themselves and others. Now that the country is slowly reopening, it’s time to return our focus to what’s most deadly to young drivers and their peers. It’s time to think not only about socially distancing ourselves, but also about isolating our cars from hazards like vulnerable road users, roadside obstacles, and even other cars. It’s time for a reminder about the biggest threat to teens’ lives: traffic crashes.

Parents have always passed the car keys to the next generation with trembling hands, and for good reason. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for every age group between 1 and 44. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal injury for people between the ages of 15 and 44. So, when it’s time to return to the road, we all need to be aware of the “danger zones” for young drivers:

  1. Inexperience
  2. Driving with teen passengers
  3. Nighttime driving
  4. Not using seat belts
  5. Distraction
  6. Drowsiness
  7. Impairment
  8. Reckless driving

Although it’s good for young drivers—and their parents—to refresh their knowledge of all the danger zones, they should be aware that our recent isolation may have increased risk in certain danger zone categories. For example, stay-at-home orders have hampered new drivers’ ability to gain experience and start to internalize many of the actions that will become second nature with more time behind the wheel. Any skills even the most seasoned driver had before lockdown will be rusty; that’s compounded for new drivers who have had far less time to practice behind the wheel. Beyond that, young drivers may not weigh risk as carefully as their adult counterparts, and the excitement of getting back on the road may easily manifest as risky behavior.

Here’s another consideration that teens and their parents might overlook: driving with teen passengers not only makes it harder for teen drivers to keep their concentration on the road, but it also flies in the face of social distancing. We understand that it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten together with people outside our homes, and teen drivers are probably the most eager of anyone to reunite with their friends. But reunions don’t belong in the same car, where distraction can be as contagious as a virus. Nothing good is going to come from getting behind the wheel if those reunions involve illegal use of alcohol or other drugs, or they go late into the night, or a driver is running on little sleep.

While distraction from passengers is one risk to avoid, driving while distracted by personal electronic devices—which was deadly before the pandemic—is potentially even deadlier now, given how accustomed we’ve become to practicing virtual contact. The always-connected world that helped us be resilient during this isolating time can also make us vulnerable to danger if we continue that constant connection while behind the wheel. No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.

Even age-old risky behaviors, like speeding, that have always been a pitfall for young drivers pose an increased danger following isolation. The roads have been emptier for months, and some drivers have taken advantage, driving unimpeded at breakneck speed. Even on nearly empty roads, drivers need to leave the lead foot at home and keep an eye out for those who treat the less-crowded roads like their personal speedways. Most importantly, drivers need to make sure they—and their passengers—are always using seat belts, in case the high-risk driver in the next lane makes a bad decision.

Teens, for all your admirable resilience in the face of today’s challenges, you are still our most vulnerable and inexperienced road users. You’re going to be a great generation of adults before long; let us help make sure you make it there.

Parents and guardians, don’t send your teens back out on the road unprepared. Talk to your teens about the key components of driving and set the example for safe driving. A study by Liberty Mutual and SADD found that parents are setting a poor example for teens by engaging in unsafe driving behaviors, such as texting and driving, and are not listening to their kids’ warnings. Forty-one percent of teens say their parents continue these unsafe behaviors even after their teens ask them to stop, and 28 percent of teens say their parents justify unsafe behavior.  Take a moment to consider how to keep your young drivers safe, how to help them make good choices, and what example you’re setting. Take time to outline the key risks of driving. If you need a reminder, visit the websites of expert organizations like NHTSA and the CDC. And remember: your example is the most powerful instructor. Teens learn by example.

It’s been said that insisting on one’s rights without accepting one’s responsibilities is not freedom but adolescence. As somebody who works in youth safety outreach, I assure you, that’s an insult to today’s adolescents, who have used their voices and actions to demonstrate that they understand the role of conscience, mindfulness, and selfless service. I have no doubt this resilient group—many of whom gave up rites of passage, like prom and in-person graduation, to self-quarantine and protect those around them—can come back to the driving task with a renewed understanding of their profound responsibilities behind the wheel.

Our virtual joint event with SADD will take place on May 27, 2020, and we want to hear from parents and youth about the challenges and successes of returning to the road. We’ll also discuss resources that everyone can use to promote safer driving, whether they’re talking to peers, parents, or teens.

NTSB & SADD Transportation Safety Youth Leader Check-in

Teens, take care as you reenter the roadway. Don’t let your freedom from isolation end in unnecessary injury or death—for you or those around you. I know it will feel amazing to get back to some kind of normal, but don’t let your sacrifices of the past few months be in vain.