Category Archives: Inside NTSB

‘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.

The Legacy of a Judge

By Christopher A. Hart

NTSB Administrative Law Judge Patrick G. Geraghty giving a presentation during AirVenture 2012.
Judge Geraghty giving a presentation during AirVenture 2012.

When people think of the NTSB, they most often think of our investigators working diligently at the scene of accidents in transportation. Many are also familiar with the safety recommendations that we issue to help make transportation safer.

What is less well known is that the NTSB serves as a “court of appeal” for airmen, mechanics or mariners who are contesting an FAA or USCG certificate action.  Our administrative law judges hear, consider, and issue initial decisions on such appeals.

On February 6, 2016, the NTSB suffered the sudden loss of Administrative Law Judge Patrick G. Geraghty. On behalf of the entire agency, I would like to express my condolences to Judge Geraghty’s family, friends, and colleagues.

Judge Geraghty served this nation as a naval aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps where he flew F-4 Phantom jets during the Vietnam War.  After his military service, he served as a senior trial attorney with the Federal Aviation Administration before becoming an Administrative Law Judge.  He was first appointed to hear cases with the U.S. Department of Labor. Judge Geraghty joined the NTSB as an administrative law judge in 1975.  During his more than 41 years of distinguished service with the NTSB, he heard and decided hundreds of medical and aviation enforcement cases.  He was a respected jurist who was always generous in sharing his expertise and advice with his fellow judges and with staff.

Judge Geraghty sometimes upheld FAA orders to suspend or revoke a pilot’s license, but he was also an instructor who helped many pilots learn how to comply with the regulations — and fly more safely — as they began or advanced their aviation careers. He held an airline transport pilot certificate and was a certified flight instructor. He also earned the prestigious title of PADI course instructor in scuba diving, and trained hundreds of scuba divers and instructors.

Judge Geraghty balanced scholarship and professionalism with a zest for everything else that life had to offer. He was a voracious reader and a lifelong learner, and he passionately pursued skiing, scuba diving, martial arts, and flying. In recent years, he learned to play the bagpipes, and traveled to Italy to take an immersion course in Italian. At the time of his passing, he was working toward a black belt in Kung Fu.

In addition to many colleagues and friends, Judge Geraghty is survived by his wife, Donna; his sons, Michael and Matthew, and his grandsons Matt and Jack.

Judge Geraghty will be greatly missed, but his legacy lives on in the many lives he enriched, both through his service to others and through the example that he set.

Our Thanks to Safety Communicators

By Sharon Bryson

CompBreakfastYesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting a meeting of transportation safety communications professionals. They came from many organizations, each with their own unique missions and capabilities. I began the meeting by saying that our attendees had one thing in common: they all worked for safety, something that really matters.

But as the conversation unfolded, I realized that in saying that, I had overlooked the obvious. They had something else in common: they were all passionate, dedicated communications professionals.

Our guests openly shared information both about their upcoming initiatives and about the challenges that they faced. They recounted some of their experiences in overcoming the challenges of an ever-shifting media landscape and shared knowledge with one another about getting the safety message out to their audiences.

Their spirit of collaboration was inspirational to me, as the director of an office tasked with developing messages based on NTSB safety recommendations and sharing those messages with the public.

Just as importantly, their knowledge of today’s communications landscape confirmed once again what I had already seen on countless occasions: in getting transportation safety messages out, we have powerful, committed, and smart allies among safety advocacy organizations.

While attendees differed in their missions and agendas, all of us came away committed to working in closer collaboration in the future.

It’s my daily honor to work for an agency with an unyielding focus on transportation safety.

But yesterday it was a special honor to host the professionals who share the NTSB’s safety mission. This is the type of needed collaboration that will help us prevent crashes, deaths, and injuries in all modes of transportation. 

To all of yesterday’s attendees, thank you.

Sharon Bryson is Director of the NTSB Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications

Honoring a Distinguished Gentleman and Jurist

By Chairman Christopher A. Hart

Judge_William_FowlerA commitment to aviation safety and fairness for all parties, with a passion for justice. That describes Judge William Fowler, a long-time NTSB Chief Administrative Law Judge whose career in service to the American public was nothing short of extraordinary.

On Sunday, August 9, 2015, the judicial and aviation community, along with the NTSB, bid farewell to Judge William Fowler, who passed away at the age of 93. He left a long legacy and storied career of public service.

I have known Judge Fowler for several decades, even before I first came to the NTSB in 1990. Judge Fowler, though not tall in stature, was most certainly a giant among men. He was humble, kind, dignified, helpful, and a gentleman, with superb judicial instincts.

Judge Fowler knew Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who served as an inspiration to many who have become lawyers, judges, and even chief judges. As Justice Marshall was an inspiration for so many, Judge Fowler served as an inspiration for me from the day we first met.

More than a half century ago, Judge Fowler came to Washington, DC, to work for Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy as a special assistant on the Department of Justice’s organized crime task force that investigated Mafia activity.

Prior to answering the call to serve for the U.S. Attorney General, Judge Fowler had already distinguished himself as the city prosecutor in his hometown, Akron, Ohio, then as Ohio’s Assistant Attorney General, and then as Chief of the Highway Division of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

After coordinating federal efforts against organized crime, which played an instrumental role in securing 11 convictions in New York and Pennsylvania, Judge Fowler’s next career move was to federal administrative law. That included positions with the U.S. Department of Labor, Social Security Administration, and U.S. Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management). He began at the NTSB in 1969, when he was appointed as a Hearing Examiner. He was named the NTSB Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in 1977, and he continued serving in that position, not only managing the entire ALJ office, but also presiding over thousands of cases, until he retired in May 2012, after 53 years of distinguished service to the NTSB and to the American public.

In 2009, Judge Fowler was awarded the Mary C. Lawton Outstanding Government Service Award for his lifetime of excellence in administrative law. He was best known in the courtroom for his dignity and calm judicial temperament. He was not only a wonderful, caring, and thoughtful person, but he was such a great jurist that he won the respect of even those who lost their cases before him.

We at the NTSB thank Judge Fowler for his humanity, justice, and service to the NTSB and to the entire aviation community. He was always, and will always be, an inspiration to me, and he set a wonderful example for the entire federal service. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will remain forever.

NTSB Employees Volunteer to Make a Difference

By Christopher A. Hart

2015 National Volunteer Week logoThis week, we celebrate National Volunteer Week, and recognize the great work done by many on behalf of their neighbors and fellow citizens.

Here at the NTSB, I get to see how passionately our staff dedicates their time at work to support the agency’s mission of saving lives, by learning the lessons from accidents and recommending ways to prevent recurrences. But I am even more excited to see the incredible efforts that so many of our staff undertakes, when they are not at work, on behalf of so many others.

From our houses of worship, to various community service projects in the communities in which we live, NTSB staff live and practice the values of volunteerism. I hear countless stories from so many about the work they do on behalf of their children, schools, and activities. From leading scout troops, to mentoring, to coaching, NTSB staff is just as busy outside of the office as they are inside.

As a science and technology based agency, a number of staff have been participating in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. And that, sharing and helping to educate, doesn’t stop at the classroom.   A number of our staff is engaged in adult education, including teaching English as a second language. And the spirit of volunteerism extends to the sick, elderly and at-risk community.

On top of all of that, our staff donates generously to the Combine Federal Campaign. As we’ve seen through the many CFC programs and activities that the different offices support during the annual campaign, there is no shortage to the extensive volunteerism that exists among our NTSB family.

Winston Churchill said that “we make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give.” So, I extend a special thank you to the NTSB staff that I have the honor of working with and also to the countless others who give of their time and talents to improve the lives of families, friends, neighbors and fellow citizens across the nation.

What is a public health scientist doing at the NTSB?

By Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr, Vice Chairman

This week is National Public Health Week.  I can’t think of a better time to introduce myself and answer the question, “What is a public health scientist doing at the National Transportation Safety Board?”

Dr. Dinh-Zarr being sworn in as the newest Member of the BoardI am the new Member and Vice Chairman of the NTSB and I am convinced that safe transportation is vital to the health and well-being of our communities.

A little over two weeks ago, I was honored to take my oath of office as the newest Member of the NTSB. Ever since I was a child growing up on the Gulf Coast, I have loved transportation. From working at the Railroad Museum as a kid to watching the ships near Galveston Island, to taking airplanes to faraway places, to using mass transit to get to work – transportation is of utmost importance to me, personally and professionally.   As I studied public health in school, specifically motor vehicle injury prevention, I saw that deaths and injuries were an unwanted (and preventable) by-product of mobility. But I also knew that we could do something about it. In fact, a seat belt has saved my life twice – once when a drunk driver hit my family’s station wagon when I was a child and again, when a distracted driver hit my car when I was a graduate student.  At the NTSB, experts investigate crashes in detail and we use the information to advance transportation in all modes.  We also highlight key issues through the Most Wanted List. As in public health, we ensure that all aspects are considered carefully as an avenue for the prevention of crashes: the person, the machine, and the environment.

President Obama proclaimed April 6-12, 2015, as National Public Health Week, and it is celebrated throughout the U.S. every year in recognition of the importance of public health to our nation and the world.

We often think of public health in terms of preventing the spread of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, or reducing chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Injury prevention is an important, and sometimes overlooked, aspect of public health. Injuries have been a leading cause of death and disability throughout history and, in fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, unintentional injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in our country! The NTSB contributes to public health by advancing transportation safety in order to prevent deaths and injuries.

The theme of this year’s National Public Health Week is the Healthiest Nation in One Generation and today’s focus is “Building Broader Communities,” which focuses on partnerships and collaboration to accomplish that. Two vital partnerships I have valued over the years in my injury prevention work is the American Public Health Association, the leaders of National Public Health Week, and the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which has very useful state-by-state data on many areas, such as seat belt use and impaired driving. I encourage you to be a part of National Public Health Week and help make yourself and our nation even healthier and safer.

We live in a mobile world. There is nothing more relevant to our health, and the health of our nation, and indeed to public health, than having a safe way to get where we need to go. Going to school, to work, to recreation, whether by land, by air, by rail, or by sea – it’s your decision where you want to go, and how you get there – but it is our job at the NTSB to help ensure you get there in the safest way possible.  I feel very privileged to be a part of this mission and to work with the highly capable and dedicated people at the NTSB!