Category Archives: Events

Teens and “Sleep Debt”

By: Dr. Jana Price

(This blog is also featured on NOYS.org.)

As young people’s schedules become busier and busier, it’s easy for sleep to fall off their priority list. Getting plenty of sleep helps youth complete tasks more efficiently, think clearly and creatively all day long, and stay alert while driving.

Although people generally recognize that sleep plays a significant role in ensuring they’re safe behind the wheel, many still admit to driving while fatigued. A recent AAA Foundation study found that 96 percent of drivers consider fatigued driving to be a serious threat and unacceptable behavior; however, nearly 3 in 10 of these same drivers admitted to driving drowsy. We believe that young drivers can avoid drowsiness if they better understand the importance of sleep, a sleep routine, and sleep debt.

Sleep is necessary for health, safety, and well-being. It helps the brain prepare for the upcoming day and allows new neural pathways to form that improve learning and memory. How much sleep do young drivers need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens ages 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.

When people don’t get enough quality sleep, they begin to accumulate “sleep debt.” This can result from a late night of studying, getting up early for sports practice, or fragmenting sleep by using a cell phone during the night. Sleep debt accumulates over time and, ultimately, can affect a person’s ability to think and perform, negatively affecting tasks like driving. Sleep debt is also linked to high-risk behaviors, such as texting while driving, drinking and driving, and not wearing a seatbelt.

At the NTSB, we have witnessed the effects of unpaid sleep debt on teen drivers. On March 20, 2016, four teens were traveling home from a weekend trip at South Padre Island, Texas. About 1:57 p.m., the driver crossed the center median, lost control of the car, entered the opposing lanes of traffic, and collided with a truck-tractor semitrailer. The driver was seriously injured and her three passengers died. NTSB investigators learned that, in the 24 hours before the crash, the driver had very little opportunity for sleep: only about 5 hours on the morning of the crash. The crash also happened at a time of day when most people commonly experience a dip in alertness and performance; in fact, the three passengers in the car were all either asleep or dozing at the time of the crash. We determined that that the driver’s loss of control was due to inattention resulting from her fatigue.

What can teens do to reduce their risk of falling asleep behind the wheel? It’s important that youth get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to be rested and rejuvenated. They should resolve to create a good sleep environment, which includes maintaining a regular sleep schedule and keeping screens out of the bedroom. If a teen has built up a sleep debt by skimping on rest, he or she can pay it back by getting a good night’s sleep for several days in a row. Finally, teens should avoid driving during the night and early morning hours when sleep typically occurs.

As teens begin to plan their upcoming school schedules and enjoy their final weeks of summer vacation, they should make sure sleep and relaxation find a prominent place on their priority list. By encouraging youth to stay out of sleep debt, we can guarantee safer and more alert young drivers behind the wheel.

To learn more about this critical problem and how to help prevent teen drowsy driving crashes, join us for our Wake Up to Teen Drowsy Driving: Don’t Send Them Back to School in ‘Debt’ webinar.  To register for the webinar: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2417579063773167107

 

Jana Price, PhD, is a Senior Human Performance Investigator in the NTSB Office of Highway Safety.

 

 

 

ADAS Must be Implemented in CMVs Now

By Rob Molloy, PhD

On July 24, I had the privilege of co-facilitating a roundtable discussion that addressed strategies to increase implementation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) —or collision avoidance systems—in the trucking industry. Many of the truck crashes we have investigated may have been mitigated or even completely prevented if the vehicles involved were equipped with ADAS. Considering that these technologies have been available in some shape or form since the 1990s, this conversation was long overdue. (See our Special Investigation Report and Most Wanted List fact sheet for more details.)

We joined forces with the National Safety Council to bring together some of the key players in the industry to discuss how we can increase ADAS implementation throughout trucking fleets. The benefits of technologies like collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) are nearly indisputable, as shown in a number of published studies.

Dr. Robert Molloy leads roundtable discussion

Joining us at the table were technology suppliers, truck manufacturers, fleet owners, government officials, researchers, trucking associations, and highway safety advocates. One universally agreed-upon takeaway from this group was that the technology is improved and effective enough now that there is no reason more truck fleets shouldn’t have it in their vehicles. As one roundtable participant noted, “Don’t let what-ifs hold up proliferation of these technologies; this technology is ready to go . . . and the longer we wait, the more crashes will happen.” In response to concerns about occasional false alerts, another noted, “We can’t wait for the technology to be perfect.”

We talked about the current state of industry, driver training and acceptance, the challenges to implementation, the benefits of regulation versus voluntary compliance, and, ultimately, we identified ways to increase implementation.

So, what did we learn?

  • Strong cases exist for accident reduction and positive return-on-investment, and they need to be shared more. For example, Schneider reported a 95-percent reduction in accident severity and a nearly 70-percent reduction in frequency in vehicles with ADAS technology. The legal costs of accidents are tremendous and also serve as an incentive for ADAS adoption. “It only takes one accident to put a small fleet out of business,” one participant noted. We must keep reminding businesses of this.
  • We are talking about driver assistance systems, not driver replacement systems. Driver acceptance and training is key. Drivers must understand what certain alerts mean and the systems’ limitations. Performance standards will be a necessary component for more universally understood systems.
  • Regulations would speed the implementation process and will eventually be needed to reach all fleets and create a level playing field. In the meantime, there is also a model for voluntary compliance that works, such as the passenger vehicle AEB commitment made last year. In fact, at our roundtable, Volvo Trucks reminded us of their announcement to make a suite of ADAS standard on all of its newly manufactured trucks. Although Daimler Trucks hasn’t taken the step to make such systems standard yet, its representatives did note a doubling in the take rate of ADAS technology to 66% in their newly manufactured trucks.
  • Data from these systems can be used to develop better systems, validate their benefits, and understand driver activities. Much work needs to be done regarding the retention and use of this data.
  • ADAS technologies are only as successful as the underlying braking and stability systems with which they are integrated. Brakes must be properly maintained, and the electronic stability control mandate must be implemented.

Although this event was targeted toward truck fleets, the general public should care, too. Why? Because truck crashes, as compared to passenger vehicle crashes, disproportionately result in fatalities. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 8 percent, from 3,749 to 4,050, and the number of large trucks involved in injury crashes was 87,000. The traveling public—the ones in the cars in front of, beside, and behind these trucks—should be leading the drum beat to ensure all trucks are equipped with the technology that could stop the vehicle if the driver can’t, or warn a driver if another vehicle suddenly stops or gets into their lane.

As I mentioned, late last year, passenger vehicle automakers committed to installing AEB in all passenger vehicles by 2022—some even earlier, so I challenged the trucking industry to do the same, with the NTSB facilitating the effort. The trucking industry should step up to this challenge now and send a message that this is an industry concerned with safety. From the many conversations that I have had with truck operators and drivers, this is a story I already know is largely true: the truck industry—one so vital to our economy—cares about the safety of its drivers and the overall safety of vehicles on our roads. A commitment toward using available technology in all its operations will drive that point home.

 The recording of the roundtable event is available on YouTube. Also see the NTSB website page for more details on the event.

 Dr. Robert Molloy is the Director of the NTSB Office of Highway Safety.

A Message to the International Aviation Community: Don’t Get Complacent

By Dennis Jones, Acting Managing Director

Acting Managing Director Dennis Jones talks about the issues affecting the aviation industry and needed safety improvements

Recently, I had the opportunity to address aviation experts at the 6th World Civil Aviation Chief Executives Forum in Singapore. This forum is a unique gathering of aviation leaders who meet to discuss the latest developments and issues affecting the global aviation industry and to exchange experiences, insights, and ideas. I spoke on a panel with colleagues from safety agencies across the world. Our topic was “Ensuring Oversight, Rethinking Safety.” We discussed the future role of safety regulation and the challenges facing safety management as the field continues to grow and develop. I was honored to share my thoughts on this topic because my entire career has been focused on improving safety, both as an investigator and manager with the NTSB for nearly 40 years and as a pilot.

Looking at the progress we have made in the world of commercial aviation here in the United States, one might say we have reached our pinnacle. Aviation is now the safest it has ever been, and we are experiencing a period of zero fatalities in the commercial sphere. But we must not get complacent; we must continue to grow and learn.

Although the aviation industry can share among itself the challenges we have overcome to improve transportation safety, we can also learn a lot from other modes of transportation, as well. For example, in rail, companies are installing in-cab video to monitor operator and crew behavior and to develop best practices to improve safety; aviation could—and should—do the same. At the same time, as more driver assistance technologies are installed in vehicles of all types, and fully automated vehicles are already being tested, the highway community could learn from aviation’s experience with using automation within its operating environment.

Avoiding complacency means keeping your eyes open, receiving and sharing information, and always being ready to respond. As a multimodal investigative agency, we have seen too many ways in which disasters can occur, and some have involved complacency—becoming too bored or familiar with standard operating procedures, which leads to a lack of interest or desire to follow the established procedures. By issuing safety recommendations, such as those focused on procedural compliance, we try to urge operators to avoid this risk and a subsequent tragic outcome.

Safety is a journey, not a destination. Although, we are seeing zero fatalities in commercial aviation, our general aviation community is still suffering losses every day, sustaining nearly 400 fatal accidents a year in the US alone. Why? We must keep asking the questions and seeking the answers to bring this number down to zero.

Acting Managing Director Dennis Jones and fellow Ensuring Oversight, Rethinking Safety panelists at the 6th World Civil Aviation Chief Executives Forum

The NTSB does not issue regulations; we are focused on solving the accident mystery and issuing appropriate recommendations to improve safety and prevent future incidents. Regulations may be one way to do this, but we have always understood that safety goes beyond rulemaking. One tool we use to call attention to the issues we can all act on is our Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements. The Most Wanted List keeps us focused on our key safety priorities and is one way to avoid complacency on those most important live-saving issues. Despite how many regulations are in place, if an operator or individual doesn’t embrace safety, there is always an increased risk for an accident.

To continue the progress we’ve made, to ensure a safe transportation system for the traveling public, we must admit our own responsibility and role in improving safety, and we must work collaboratively: investigators, engineers, CEOs, pilots. Safety can only be achieved through worldwide collaboration and a continued invested interest in learning, growing, improving, and saving lives.

Preventing Crashes with Technology

By Erik Strickland

I’m a transportation geek. It’s an odd niche, but I’ve decided to own it. I’m also a fan of the latest-and-greatest when it comes to technology. I normally can’t afford to be an early adopter, but I keep an eye on things and jump in when the tech has started to prove itself.

This is how many vehicle manufacturers look at transportation safety technology, as well. They may develop a piece of tech, do tons of tests on it, and then roll it out on limited, trim levels; applying it first only to high-end models. That’s great for that new widget that makes the windshield wipers automatically kick on, but some things, like safety technology, need to be on all vehicles, not just on the high-end models. Last fall, we held a forum to discuss the importance of getting safety tech (like automatic emergency braking and collision avoidance systems) into passenger vehicles. It was a great discussion, and folks were amazed at how many vehicles lack these safety advancements.

But safety technology isn’t just for passenger vehicles; it’s just as important for commercial vehicles, like heavy-duty trucks and semi-tractor trailers. Safety technologies are incorporated into commercial vehicles at a much lower rate than they are in passenger vehicles, yet when heavy-duty vehicles are involved in a crash, the damage is often more severe than what you see in a passenger vehicle crash. What’s more, although many commercial vehicles are being designed and built to accommodate the new safety technology, operators are not requesting the tech or installing it.

Technology doesn’t replace the need for a safe driver, but, just like a seat belt, it acts as a secondary line of defense in case a crash does occur. We believe operators should include new safety tech in their vehicles just as they do seat belts, and we’re not the only ones who think that.

Next week, we’re co-hosting an event with the National Safety Council that will bring together leaders from all related stakeholder groups to discuss technology in heavy-duty trucking and how we can increase adoption rates.

Check out who’s coming to the roundtable and tune in to watch it online. It’s going to be an informative afternoon, and I hope everyone walks away as excited about transportation safety tech as I am, with great ideas on how to use it to make heavy-duty vehicles safer.

 

Erik Strickland is a Safety Advocate in the NTSB Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications

Don’t Drop a Bomb: Secure Your Load

 

By Don Karol

My son and I knew the danger we faced when we headed off to war. Scud missiles . . . rooftop snipers . . . roadside bombs . . . an enemy that wanted to kill us. Making it home safely was not a sure thing.

But when 24-year-old Maria drove home from work one night, she had no idea that driving on an interstate highway could be just as perilous as being in a war zone.

You never forget the day you receive the “death knock” at your door. I had just returned to the U.S. from my tour of duty in Iraq, but was not prepared for the ominous words that would follow. It was October 6th, 2003. The US Army knocking on my door . . . regretting to inform me that my 20-year-old son was killed in action and would not be coming home.

Four months later, on February 22, 2004, Robin Abel received a similar notification. Robin was asleep at home when she got a call from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Her daughter Maria was critically injured in a highway crash and was not expected to survive.

Maria was not hit by a command-detonated bomb like my son Spencer, but was hit by something just as deadly. A poorly secured entertainment center fell from the back of a trailer in front of her. The driver of the car pulling the trailer had been moving all day and had failed to properly secure the items in the trailer. A 2-by-6-foot piece of particle board flew through her windshield, hitting her in the face. Miraculously, Maria survived. However, she permanently lost her eyesight and had to endure facial reconstruction, multiple surgeries, and trauma that will last her lifetime.

Our nation’s highways should not be like an active war zone, but they are. With over 35,000 people killed and 2.4 million injured in crashes each year, who can argue differently? Fortunately, there are warriors on the front lines—passionate safety advocates—fighting to make a difference.

About 6 years ago, I met one of the fiercest (and nicest) warriors for safety, Robin Abel. We spoke on the phone after I read her book “Out of Nowhere,” the story of Robin’s determination to rebuild her daughter’s life and change road safety laws to prevent future tragedies involving unsecured loads. As I spoke with Robin, I learned how a single voice can make a powerful difference. I saw the impact Robin made in the state of Washington and learned about how legislators adopted “Maria’s Law,” which criminalizes a person’s failure to properly secure a load that results in injury or death.

Since our initial contact, I have remained in frequent communication with Robin. As a safety leader at the NTSB, I know how important it is to have safety warriors by my side. I’ve guided Robin where I can, but most of the time I’ve stood back and marveled at her tireless efforts to educate lawmakers, businesses, and individuals about the dangers posed by unsecured loads and highway debris. Most recently, I’ve seen how she has fought to establish a dedicated day of awareness.

On Memorial Day, I took time to remember my son and all the others who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country.

Tomorrow, I will take time to remember Robin’s daughter and all those who have been killed and injured in crashes involving an unsecured load. June 6th is “Secure Your Load” day; a day dedicated to raising awareness of an often-overlooked safety problem.

As a crash investigator, I have seen the tragic results of a mattress, ladder, Christmas tree, or piece of furniture falling from a moving vehicle. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, in 2010, there were about 51,000 crashes—including almost 10,000 injured persons and 440 known fatalities—involving a vehicle striking an object that came off another vehicle or an object lying in the roadway.

Recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated that road debris played a role in more than 50,000 crashes, which resulted in over 9,800 injuries and approximately 125 deaths each year from 2011 through 2014. These numbers are staggering, especially because these crashes were preventable.

So, tomorrow, share the “Secure Your Load” safety message with everyone you know. As my fellow safety warrior Robin Abel has said on many occasions: “Secure your load as if everyone you love is driving in the car behind you.”

For more information, check out the Secure Your Load PSA.

 

Donald F. Karol is a National Resource Specialist and Senior Accident Investigator in the NTSB Office of Highway Safety.

‘Ride Your Own Ride’ – Even in Groups

By Chris O’Neil

The vast majority of the miles I’ve logged as a motorcyclist have been as a solo rider, where I alone plan the route, set the pace, and determine when and where to take breaks. Riding alone, to me, reinforces the independence, mental solitude, and freedom I feel every time I saddle up. Riding alone allows me to easily ride at my comfort and skill level.

I also enjoy large group rides from time to time, where someone else is responsible for the trip planning, and execution—and where I can just follow along a route with a bunch of folks who love riding as much as I do. However, riding close to so many others can lull you into a false sense of security or can create a sense of performance pressure—or both. Riding within your limits, or “riding your ride,” when in a group is one way to avoid these dangerous mental states and ensure a safe and fun ride.

Just because you’re not leading the group ride, doesn’t mean you don’t have a role in planning the ride. The group leader should provide a pre-ride briefing that covers the route, planned stops, hand signals, and procedures to follow if the group gets separated or if a rider has an emergency. Actively listening and participating in the pre-ride briefing helps get your mind in the ride.

(Photo by Larry G. Carmon)

Group riding is generally done in a staggered column of two within a single travel lane, requiring riders to maintain an interval with the biker ahead of them and the rider in the staggered position. It’s easy to get fixated on the mechanics of maintaining these intervals and to forget to continue your own scanning of the roadway. Seeing and evaluating potential risks and planning how to avoid or mitigate them is a continuous process for motorcyclists that doesn’t stop whether you’re in the lead, the middle, or at the tail of your group. The visibility that comes with riding in a group does not replace the need for you to identify your escape routes should an emergency – like an animal darting out into your path or a car encroaching your lane – arise.

It’s also easy to feel a little pressured when in a group ride – the sense of a need to keep up, to take turns and curves at the group’s speed, to not get separated at a traffic signal, or to proceed through an intersection before you’re really ready. I have felt this pressure a couple times while riding in groups and I took a few twisties a bit faster than I would have if I were on my own.

And now I know better. I learned to overcome that mindset by recognizing I’m riding with a group of friends – no one is judging me. These folks want me to enjoy the ride as much as they do, and they want to help me become an even more accomplished rider. I remind myself, in every group ride, that I’m going to ride my ride and that’s not only okay, it’s expected by the folks with whom I’m riding. If I’m riding my ride, I’m in my comfort zone. If I’m in my comfort zone, I’m more relaxed and less likely to panic or overcorrect in an emergency, and less likely to crash or cause a crash because I’m confident that my abilities match my environment.

Motorcycle Safety Month is wrapping up just as the motorcycle riding season is shifting into high gear. Getting out with friends in group rides is a big part of the season and ensuring you’re riding your ride, every ride, is one way to make every ride a safe ride.

For tips on riding in groups or the SEE (search, evaluate and execute) process, visit the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s website at https://www.msf-usa.org/Default.aspx.

 

Chris O’Neil is the NTSB Chief of Media Relations.

Today’s Actions, Tomorrow’s Consequences

By Nicholas Worrell

In the past 2 months, several occasions have raised awareness about the dangers we face in highway safety:

  • National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
  • Public Health Awareness Week
  • Impaired Driving Awareness Month
  • Click It or Ticket National Enforcement Mobilization
  • Global Youth Traffic Safety Month
  • Bicycle Safety Month
  • Global Road Safety Week
  • Motorcycle Awareness Month

Naturally, the NTSB has played a role in many of these initiatives in support of our highway safety recommendations; but it is often the work of advocates and brave legislators around the country that move states toward action on our recommendations.

Unfortunately, despite these national and global initiatives, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction. After years of decline and plateau, the number of traffic deaths per year spiked in 2015 and 2016. When the 2016 numbers are tallied, it’s reasonable to assume that they will be the highest in a decade.

The cultural shift we need to stop this trend will take greater education, legislative, and enforcement efforts. In our April 26 roundtable, “Act 2 End Deadly Distractions,” we brought together advocacy groups, insurance companies, survivor advocates, and law enforcement representatives to discuss the problem and identify specific solutions. Survivor advocates went away with new tools and contacts, as well as with information on how to take more effective action to move the public, state and local governments, employers, and law enforcement. The assembled advocacy groups announced an alliance, the National Alliance for Distraction Free Driving.

NTSB Highway Investigator Kenny Bragg talks with students at the Prince George’s County (MD) Global Youth Traffic Safety Month event

Earlier this month, the NTSB’s Advocacy Division collaborated with Prince George’s County (MD) Police Department, the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), and Freedom High School in Virginia to educate youth about driving hazards. Together, we kicked off our Global Youth Traffic Safety Month social media campaign, #1goodchoice, to promote teen driver safety.

Last week, I represented the NTSB at the International Road Federation’s 6th Caribbean Regional Congress. At the meeting, I emphasized the “service” part of civil service and shared what NTSB Advocacy has learned in promoting action for safer driving and safer roads.

Nicholas Worrell talks with attendees at the International Road Foundation’s 6th Caribbean Regional Conference

Even as safety features become more and more common, our driving behavior has not become safer. We must change behavior to make a real difference, and that change in behavior starts with ourselves. The first step to making this change is realizing that those who die in highway crashes are not some “other people”—they’re somebody’s loved ones. They were somebody, themselves. They could have been us. You can take action to increase awareness—your own as well as that of those around you. Turn away from messages about how much we can drink before driving, for example, and think instead about separating the two behaviors. Realize that, whether you’re speeding to make a red light or glancing at your phone while driving, it can wait. Get enough sleep before driving. Wear a helmet when you’re on a motorcycle. Be alert to pedestrians and bicycles, and be alert as a pedestrian and a bicyclist. Reach out to people you know, either through social and traditional media or by simply having a face-to-face conversation with your loved ones and friends about the behaviors they need to change when they’re on the road.

Act to end distractions by joining the conversation at #Act2EndDD. You can talk about your one good choice (#1goodchoice). If you’re a survivor advocate, you can get in touch with the National Alliance for Distraction Free Driving for tools and ideas on how to put an end to distracted driving.

If each of us changes our own behavior, we will create a safer world. We must all take responsibility and act to keep drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists alive.