NTSB Advocacy Spotlight – September 2020

THE BIG STORIES

Safety Reminder Campaign Focused on Summer Safety

The NTSB launched its #SafetyReminder social and digital media campaign in mid-May to remind the traveling public about the importance of staying focused on safety during the summer as we slowly resumed air, rail, road, and marine travel following unprecedented stay-at-home restrictions related to the COVID pandemic. Chairman Robert Sumwalt kicked off the campaign prior to the Memorial Day weekend, recording a YouTube video message calling on members of the public to “practice highway safety with the same sense of responsibility they applied to reducing the spread of the coronavirus.” Staff also led a Twitter chat with transportation advocacy groups from all modes of transportation, sharing safety tips and travel resources with the public. Board members also produced blog posts throughout the spring and early summer addressing concerns about the easing of safety regulations for commercial operations during COVID and warning against getting lax about safety. Read more about the campaign in our blog.

Transportation Communicator’s Meeting – COVID Update

Safety advocacy professionals once again met with NTSB communicators and safety advocates on May 6 to discuss how transportation safety organizations are communicating their strategies and policy changes during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, we wanted to hear how organizations in all modes were continuing to address safe travel, even though travel was limited and messaging was focused on a different kind of safety: health. Nearly 30 professionals attended the virtual meeting, which resulted information and idea sharing and mutual agreements to partner on future safety initiatives.

New 3-Year Term of Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg

On Aug. 26, President Donald Trump designated Bruce Landsberg to continue to serve as Vice Chairman of the NTSB for 3 more years. On Aug. 7, 2018, Landsberg began a 5-year appointment as an NTSB Board member, and a separate 3-year term as the NTSB’s Vice Chairman. Since his arrival in 2018, Landsberg has been a tireless advocate for safety improvements on our Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements (MWL), specifically in the areas of distraction and fatigue. He led public roundtables with law enforcement, survivor advocates, and advocacy groups on distracted driving. In the Vice Chairman’s latest blog, he provided his perspective about commercial driver fatigue. The NTSB looks forward to the Vice Chairman’s continued promotion of our MWL and dedication to improving transportation safety across all modes.

HIGHWAY SAFETY

School Bus Safety Meeting with Ohio Legislators, Regulators

On May 12, Office of Highway Safety (HS) Deputy Director Kris Poland, Ph.D., briefed Ohio Sen. Ethan Manning, staff from other Ohio legislative offices, and Transportation Department and local school officials on the NTSB’s school bus investigations and safety recommendations. The virtual meeting was part of an “Interested Parties Call” arranged by a local school bus safety advocacy group. In addition to discussing our recommendations regarding lap/shoulder belts on school buses, Poland described recent investigations involving students who were killed or injured in school bus loading zones and our subsequent recommendations related to routing. Meeting participants described their experiences with school transportation programs that have installed lap/shoulder belts, and shared their perspectives on the viability of implementing school bus safety initiatives.

Highway Safety Virtual Briefing for Rec Recipients

Due to the COVID pandemic shutdown, the NTSB transitioned its planned April 7 live Board meeting on the October 30, 2018, school bus/pedestrian crash in Rochester, Indiana, which resulted in the deaths of three children, to a May 13 webinar presentation. Investigators from HS presented the findings of our investigation and the resulting safety recommendations to about 860 recommendation recipients and other stakeholders in this first-of-its-kind virtual Board meeting.

Sharing Safety Concerns with New Automakers Group

On July 21, Board members and staff from HS and the Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications met virtually with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation—formerly Auto Alliance and Global Automakers—to learn more about its new merged organization, often referred to as “Auto Innovators.” We shared our perspectives on safety priorities and recommendations for automotive manufacturers and suppliers. John Bozzella, President and CEO, and other senior leaders from Auto Innovators joined us for this important discussion. HS Deputy Director Kris Poland, HS Project Manager and Human Performance Investigator Ensar Becic, and Safety Advocate Amy Terrone presented on the NTSB investigative and party processes, recent crash investigations involving automated vehicles, the NTSB’s MWL, and current safety advocacy initiatives. We also discussed possible future collaborations aimed at improving driving safety.

Board Members on Heavy-Duty Trucking Podcast

Season 3, episode 5 of the Heavy Duty “Trucking Talks” Trucking podcast, released in July, featured Board Members Michael Graham and Thomas Chapman discussing issues on our MWL. On the podcast, Chapman discussed impairment and obstructive sleep apnea concerns in commercial driving; Graham discussed the benefits of collision avoidance technologies. Both explained why the agency wants to see these changes implemented, and how the number of crash fatalities could be reduced substantially if the recommendations were followed by various regulatory agencies.

Illinois Crash Highlights 3 Most Wanted List items

A fatal, seven-vehicle crash that occurred on an Illinois highway on March 1, 2018, called attention to at least three of the 10 issues featured on our MWL. A commercial tractor-trailer traveling on Interstate 290 in Elmhurst, Illinois, struck an automobile that had slowed due to traffic congestion. The rear-end collision initiated a chain of crashes involving two other large trucks and three more cars, killing one person and injuring five more. The Elmhurst crash investigation highlighted several safety issues that the NTSB has previously identified involving commercial drivers: medical fitness for duty, fatigue, and the lack of a collision avoidance system. We have many recommendations in these areas which, if implemented, would improve the safety of commercial vehicle travel.

Sharing Lessons Learned from AV-Related Crashes

HS Project Manager and Human Performance Investigator Ensar Becic, Ph.D., discussed NTSB perspectives on autonomous vehicles in two separate virtual events. During a panel discussion at the Automated Vehicle Symposium on July 27, he presented lessons learned from the high-profile 2018 crash in Tempe, Arizona, involving an Uber ATG vehicle operating in an automated mode. He examined the roles of developers, states, and the federal government in the accident, as well as the challenge of determining the adequacy of risk and mitigation strategies with no current standards and assessment protocols. During the Lifesavers Conference 2020 Webinar Series, the virtual replacement for the Lifesavers National Conference on Highway Safety Priorities, Becic participated in a session entitled, “Fully Autonomous Vehicles: Reality or Hype?” along with other industry experts.

The Engineer’s Role in Ensuring Infrastructure Safety

During the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Conference, held Aug. 3–6, Chairman Robert Sumwalt discussed the roles and responsibilities of professional engineers in ensuring the safety of our nation’s infrastructure. He reviewed accident investigations, such as the pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami, Florida, in 2018, where mistakes in engineering or engineering factors caused or contributed to the accident. He also discussed our recommendations to engineers and engineering groups. View his presentation to the NSPE.

Keynote Address to Texas Traffic Safety Professionals

Board Member Jennifer Homendy was the keynote speaker at the Texas Traffic Safety Virtual Conference on June 11, which was attended by traffic safety professionals from across the state. She discussed our highway safety priority issues and recommendations, including the many highway-related issues on our MWL, and focused on those issues related to speeding and pedestrian safety. During the COVID pandemic, the number of vehicle miles driven has decreased, but in many states, the number of speeding-related incidents has increased, as has the number of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. Homendy recognized Texas road safety efforts to strive for zero deaths on its roadways by 2050 and discussed the impact of systemic racism on safety when it comes to developing traffic safety countermeasures. Read her presentation to conference attendees.

Presenting at Walk Bike Places Annual Conference

On Aug. 6, Research and Engineering Transportation Research Analyst Ivan Cheung briefed attendees of the virtual Walk Bike Places 2020 Conference on our Bicyclist Safety Study and recommendations to improve bicycle safety. The conference is billed as the premier conference in North America for walking, biking, and placemaking professionals from the public and private sectors. In the “How to Make a Street Safe” session, Cheung also discussed the importance of speed management, which has been part of our MWL since 2019. Board Member Thomas Chapman provided prerecorded remarks to the session attendees in which he discussed two items on the MWL for which he is the NTSB’s key advocate: medical fitness (obstructive sleep apnea) and impairment.

Webinar for the Association of Pedestrian and Biking Pros

Board Member Jennifer Homendy participated in a webinar hosted by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) on June 24. She discussed the NTSB report development process and safety recommendations related to protecting vulnerable road users. Specifically, she discussed the findings from some of our recent studies and special investigation reports on single-unit trucks, speeding, impairment, motorcycle safety, pedestrians, and bicyclist safety. View her presentation to the APBP. Find the studies she references on our safety studies and alerts web page.

Safety Message for Collegiate Volleyball Officials

Collegiate volleyball officials drive a lot throughout the season, often rushing from their day jobs, then drive home late at night after the match. Board Member Michael Graham joined a virtual meeting of collegiate volleyball officials on July 23 to encourage and promote safe driving. Graham discussed our MWL focus areas related to highway safety, including speeding, distraction, and fatigue. He also urged officials to mitigate the impacts of any crash that might occur simply by ensuring everyone in the vehicle wears seat belts.

Getting Back-to-School Safely – an NTSB Perspective

Throughout September and August, the NTSB focused some of its advocacy on ensuring students got back to school safely, even as school systems were attempting to address the challenges of COVID. In an article for School Transportation News, Board Member Michael Graham reminded school administrators of lessons learned from the Rochester, Indiana, and Baltimore, Maryland, school bus accidents, including the importance of safely planning bus routes by identifying and avoiding hazards, such as high-speed roadway crossings, and ensuring bus drivers are medically and physically fit after the extended COVID hiatus. Read the article. Member Graham also joined NTSB Highway Investigators Michele Beckjord and Meg Sweeney in an episode of Behind-the-Scene @NTSB, the agency’s podcast, where they shared lessons learned from our school-transportation–related crash investigations and discussed why school buses are the safest form of transportation for students.

AVIATION SAFETY

Two Aviation Board Meetings Highlight MWL Issues

The NTSB held two virtual Board meetings highlighting a key aviation safety issue on our MWL, “Improving the Safety of Part 135 Operations,” and once again called attention to the importance of recorders in aircraft. On May 19, the Board met to determine the probable cause of the Jan. 29, 2019, crash in Zaleski, Ohio, of a Bell 407 helicopter operating as an air ambulance. The helicopter was en route to pick up a patient when it crashed in deteriorating weather. Three occupants died. The NTSB determined that the crash was caused by the operator’s “inadequate management of safety,” and called attention to our recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requiring all 135 operators to establish safety management system (SMS) programs. The NTSB also held a meeting on July 14 to determine the probable cause of the Feb. 23, 2019, Atlas Air flight 3591 crash into Trinity Bay, Texas. The accident occurred when the cargo jet entered a rapid descent and impacted a marshy bay area near Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The two pilots and one nonrevenue jumpseat pilot died of their injuries. This accident also highlighted Part 135 safety issues and the benefit of recorders, which was an issue on our MWL in 2016 and 2017–2018.

Chairman Featured Speaker in RTCA Webinar Series

Chairman Robert Sumwalt discussed the NTSB’s role in improving transportation safety in a webinar before members of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics on July 15. The group calls itself the “premier Public-Private Partnership venue for developing consensus among diverse, competing interests on critical aviation modernization issues.” The Chairman provided first-hand insight into how we conduct investigations, as well as how we analyze the data we capture from accidents, and discussed the tools we use for investigations, such as drones. View Sumwalt’s RTCA presentation.

The Importance of Sharing Information on Bad Weather

On June 16, Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg attended the FAA’s PIREP Summit 2020, where he encouraged pilots to share information with other pilots in a timely manner to prevent accidents. He discussed how sharing information about changes in weather can help pilots avoid fatal accidents and improves aviation communication systems overall. The NTSB has issued several safety alerts on this topic, among them “Pilot Weather Reports—Pay it Forward.” Visit our web page to see all weather-related safety alerts. 

Aviation Investigator’s Safety Tips for Women Pilots

Jennifer Rodi, Ph.D., a senior aviation investigator, briefed about 50 members of the Ninety-Nines international women’s pilot organization during a live webinar on May 21. She discussed key findings and recommendations from recent general aviation accident investigations and lessons learned from her own investigative experience. Other topics she covered included accident and incident reporting requirements and the NTSB’s MWL. View the presentation to the Ninety-Nines.

Insurers and Underwriters Meet with Board Members

Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg and Board Member Jennifer Homendy both addressed aviation insurer and underwriters groups on NTSB safety concerns. The Vice Chairman presented the keynote address on May 13 at the Aviation Insurance Association’s virtual conference. He encouraged aviation insurers to continue to push for effective safety practices, including promoting and incentivizing, where possible, the advancement of airplane technology. Member Jennifer Homendy joined an aviation insurance underwriters quarterly call on July 29 to discuss our recent safety recommendations report on rotorcraft, which called for every transport-category rotorcraft to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder and a flight data recorder. Member Homendy and NTSB Aviation Engineer Chihoon Shin also briefed the underwriters on other open NTSB recommendations related to rotorcraft safety, including those discussing crash-resistant fuel systems and recorders, SMSs, and flight data monitoring.

MARINE SAFETY

Marine Accident Brief and Recreational Boating Safety Issues

May 22–28 was National Safe Boating Week, and it coincided with the release of an NTSB marine accident brief highlighting several concerning recreational boating issues. The brief discussed the results of our investigation into the July 23, 2019, sinking of the recreational vessel Silver Lining, after it struck an underwater rock formation, took on water, and sank near the Hood Canal Bridge in Puget Sound, Washington. None of the eight people on board was injured; however, the brief provided lessons learned for recreational boaters, including the errors that led to the accident and the emergency measures that followed. Recreational boating has been a focus of our MWL, and we issued a safety alert on the topic in 2013. Additionally, #SafetyReminder social media campaign focused on recreational boating safety, including the importance of wearing life vests.

Safety Reminders for Waterway Operators’ Summer of Safety

Chairman Robert Sumwalt was the focus of the American Waterways Operators’ (AWO) third event in its “Virtual Summer of Safety” initiative. In the June 24 webinar series, “A Conversation with NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt,” the Chairman shared information about the NTSB’s role in marine safety, specifically that of the Office of Marine Safety. He gave an overview of the agency’s accident investigations, safety studies, and safety recommendations. Additionally, he offered observations about safety trends in marine transportation and lessons learned from his work with other modes of transportation that translate to the towing industry. Ultimately, the Chairman urged operators “to set the bar for a proactive safety culture.” View the presentation to the AWO.

Lessons from El Faro for Maritime Students

On Aug. 27, Office of Marine Safety Acting Director Morgan Turrell was the featured speaker, as part of the Ed Fouhy Distinguished Virtual Speaker Series, at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center in Chatham, Massachusetts. The series engages the maritime community in exploring significant and thought-provoking topics and was established in honor of Guglielmo Marconi, a founder of the field of wireless radio communications, which is an area of significant importance to the maritime industry. Turrell shared lessons learned from the El Faro sinking, a landmark marine accident, for an audience of about 40 participants, which included STEM students.

RAIL, PIPELINE, AND HAZMAT SAFETY

Recognizing 10-Year Anniversary of Marshall Oil Spill

On July 23, Board Member Jennifer Homendy participated in a roundtable, hosted by the Pipeline Safety Trust, that marked the 10-year anniversary of the Marshall, Michigan, pipeline rupture—one of the largest and most expensive inland oil spills to occur in the United States. Homendy shared her perspective on the rupture from when she was the Democratic Staff Director of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials for the U.S. House of Representatives. She also discussed the NTSB investigation of the rupture and our subsequent report. Read her blog on the Marshall anniversary.

Change in Shipping Standards for Lithium-ion Batteries

On June 8, the NTSB called for a change in air cargo shipping requirements for some types of lithium-ion batteries. The safety recommendations follow our investigation into an accident in which a shipment of lithium-ion batteries ignited while in transport on a delivery truck in Canada. The shipment had originated in the United States and flew on two aircraft before igniting on the delivery truck. We reported that the batteries may have qualified for an exemption in international shipping standards that allows for air transport of “prototype” or “low-production” batteries without passing safety tests required of other lithium-ion batteries. To address this safety hazard, we issued two safety recommendations asking the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and International Civil Aviation Organization, which regulate the transportation of potentially dangerous products, to remove the exemption. Lithium-ion battery transport has been a featured issue on our MWL.

Calling for Safety Management Systems in Pipeline

Board Member Jennifer Homendy gave a keynote speech to the American Petroleum Institute (API) Pipeline Conference Webinar Series that aired throughout August and September. She commended the API for exceeding the NTSB’s recommendation, which we issued after the Marshall, Michigan, pipeline rupture in 2010, on developing an SMS program standard. The API’s SMS program standard, Recommended Practice 1173, is voluntary. Member Homendy called on the industry to make more progress toward widespread SMS implementation.

Amtrak Office of Inspector General PTC Discussion

In the last week of August, Board Member Jennifer Homendy met with staff from the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General (OIG) during their annual audit training to discuss safety issues facing Amtrak and the rail industry. Specifically, she addressed the importance of implementing PTC, an issue that has been on our MWL for decades. The final deadline for railroads to implement PTC is December 31, 2020.

YOUTH AND TEEN OUTREACH

Meeting with SADD Youth and Their Parents

On May 27, we joined the Students Against Destructive Decisions at a virtual joint event for a “transportation safety youth leader check-in.” We wanted to hear from parents and youth about the challenges and successes of returning to the road during the COVID pandemic and discuss resources that everyone can use to promote safer driving—whether they’re talking to peers, parents, or teens. The event was conducted as part of the NTSB’s #SafetyReminders campaign and in recognition of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month.

Concordia College Student Visit with NTSB

On May 14, Safety Advocacy Division Chief Nicholas Worrell and Safety Advocate Stephanie Shaw participated in a virtual meeting with undergraduate students at the Concordia College Offutt School of Business to talk about the NTSB and our MWL. They also discussed our high-profile investigations of vehicles with advanced driver assistance technologies, and our efforts to encourage companies to educate employees on how to safely operate the vehicles both at work and at home. The Concordia College undergraduate program focuses on four critical skills: global understanding, entrepreneurship, ethics, and leadership.

MOST WANTED LIST PROGRESS REPORT (Hits, Misses & Other Related Developments)

Eliminate Distractions

At least 14 states have considered legislation to strengthen distracted driving laws in recent months. States to watch for potential positive action include Kansas, Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. October is “Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” in which advocates from across the nation will collaborate to raise awareness about the dangers of driving distracted and urge more action on the legislative front.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) won a national award of excellence for its “Look Up, Look Out” video urging teenage drivers not to text and drive. The American Association for State Highway Transportation Officials Transportation Communications Committee selected MDOT SHA’s video in the category of public service announcements, video or radio. View the video.

End Alcohol and Other Drug Impairment

Alcohol-detection systems that stop people from drinking and driving could prevent more than a quarter of U.S. road fatalities and save upwards of 9,000 lives a year, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows. Alcohol has been a factor in about 30 percent of U.S. roadway deaths every year for the past decade. Meanwhile, police arrest about 1 million people a year for alcohol-impaired driving. Systems that can detect a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and, if it is higher than a predetermined limit, prevent his or her vehicle from moving could slash those numbers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released its Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Monthly summary report for July 2020. The report noted that, through the end of July, a total of 30,546 total drug and alcohol violations have been reported to the clearinghouse since it went into effect on January 6. 2020. Positive drug tests account for approximately 81 percent of the total reported violations. Over one-half of the positive drug tests reported were for marijuana; the next most frequent drugs identified in positive tests were cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine. 

In advance of the summer season, in May, criminal justice and highway safety experts, working with Responsibility.org, launched new tools that identify the factors putting Americans at highest risk from impaired drivers. The tool kit also recommended law enforcement reforms needed to make roads safer, and aimed to help the general public understand how to improve the complicated legal system as it relates to impaired driving. The STOP High-Risk Impaired Drivers (STOP HRID) Expert Panel, which developed the tool kit, concluded that, although every impaired driver is a high risk on our roadways, Americans face an increased risk of death and injury from impaired drivers who combine multiple drugs (whether or not alcohol is one of the drugs), drive with a BAC above 0.15 percent, or repeatedly drive while impaired. An accident we investigated in Concan, Texas, highlights the dangerous effects of combining multiple drugs.

Ensure Safe Shipment of Hazardous Materials

In July, the NTSB closed Safety Recommendations P-15-4 and -10 to PHMSA acceptably. The recommendations asked PHMSA to increase the positional accuracy of pipeline centerlines and pipeline attribute details relevant to safety in the National Pipeline Mapping System, and to update guidance for gas transmission pipeline operators and inspectors on the evaluating interactive threats. This guidance should list all threat interactions that must be evaluated and acceptable methods to be used.

On June 19, the U.S. Department of Transportation and PHMSA, in consultation with the FRA, issued a final rule authorizing the bulk transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail. Specifically, the rule will permit the bulk transportation of LNG in DOT-113C120W9 (DOT-113) specification tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls. The final rule addresses NTSB concerns.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a ruling in May allowing for the transport of crude oil by rail nationwide, preempting Washington’s crude-by-rail law. The rule follows a study by Sandia National Laboratories showing that imposing vapor pressure limits would not reduce the risks of transporting oil and other flammable liquids. The NTSB supports the rule; in our investigations, we have not found vapor pressure to be a risk factor in the transport of crude oil by rail.

Fully Implement Positive Train Control

In June, the NTSB closed (as no longer applicable) Safety Recommendation R-13-27 to all railroads subject to the positive train control (PTC) provisions of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The recommendation asked railroads to provide PTC implementation update reports to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) every 6 months until PTC implementation was complete. It is now a congressional mandate to provide regular updates.

On Aug. 12, the FRA released a quarterly status update on railroads’ self‑reported progress, as of June 30, 2020, toward fully implementing PTC systems by December 31, 2020, as required by Congress. Based on railroads’ second quarter 2020 PTC progress reports and current PTC implementation plans, nearly all railroads subject to the statutory mandate are operating their systems in revenue service or in advanced field testing (revenue service demonstration). As of June 30, PTC technology remains to be activated on approximately 700 required route miles. Amtrak announced in August that it had reached a major milestone in PTC implementation on all Amtrak-owned or controlled tracks. The final piece of the project recently concluded with installation on approximately 1 mile of slow-speed track in the complex Chicago terminal. Amtrak continues to work with partners throughout the industry to advance this system on host infrastructure.

Speeding was the focus of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Operation Safe Driver Week, which took place July 12–18. Speeding was the top traffic enforcement violation for both passenger vehicle and commercial motor vehicle drivers. Passenger vehicle drivers received 14,378 citations and 11,456 warnings for speed-related offenses. Commercial motor vehicle drivers were issued 2,339 speed-related citations and 3,423 warnings.

On Aug. 3, 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a notice and request for comments on an information collection request (ICR) regarding speeding attitudes and behavior. NHTSA is seeking approval to conduct a national survey on the extent to which drivers speed, reasons and motivations for speeding, perceptions of speed, and knowledge and attitudes towards countermeasure strategies to deter speeding. Comments are due by Oct. 2.

Improve the Safety of Part 135 Aircraft Flight Operations

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono have introduced legislation that would mandate all air tour and skydiving flights be conducted under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 121 or 135, and that all aircraft used for such purposes be equipped with crash-resistant flight recorders capable of supporting flight operations quality assurance programs. The Air Tour and Skydiving Safety Improvement Act would also require air tour and skydiving flight operators to establish and implement a performance-based standard for remote flight data monitoring, flight data monitoring programs for tour operators, controlled flight into terrain training, terrain awareness and warning system training.

Increase Implementation of Collision Avoidance Systems in all New Highway Vehicles

On June 26, the NTSB provided comments on the NHTSA’s request for comments, titled “Agency Information Collection Activities; Notice and Request for Comment; Government 5-Star Safety Ratings Label Consumer Research,” published at 85 Federal Register 23598 on April 28, 2020. In its request, NHTSA proposes to conduct focus groups in four geographic markets located across the country to evaluate design and consumer information improvements to the Government 5-Star Safety Ratings section of the Monroney label. The NTSB has made recommendations regarding expansion of the New Car Assessment Program 5-star rating system and vehicle Monroney labels. Read our response to the NPRM.

On July 2, NHTSA published a notice and request for comments (RFC) for a planned ICR regarding automated driving system (ADS) testing. The information collection would seek voluntary information from ADS technology companies that are testing the technology on public roads, as well as from state and local governments that have implemented ADS testing regulations. Comments were due by Aug. 31. Read our response to the RFC.

On June 11, the IIHS hosted a webinar for the public on how crash avoidance technologies work and how IIHS evaluates them. David Aylor, manager of active safety testing for IIHS, specifically discussed front crash prevention, including pedestrian detection, and headlight technology. Watch the YouTube broadcast.

On Aug. 6, AAA released a report that found that active driving assistance systems do less to assist drivers and more to interfere. Automotive researchers found that, over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles, on average. AAA recommends manufacturers increase the scope of active driving assistance system testing and limit their rollout until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safer driver experience.

In May, the NTSB closed Safety Recommendation A-13-3 to the FAA acceptably (alternate action). The recommendation—made in response to a 2011 accident involving a Eurocopter sightseeing helicopter in Las Vegas, Nevada—asked the FAA to require that personnel performing maintenance or inspections under Title 14 CFR Parts 121, 135, 145, and 91 subpart K receive initial and recurrent training on human factors affecting maintenance, including a review of the causes of human error, such as fatigue, its effects on performance, and actions individuals can take to prevent it.

The FMCSA’s final rule on hours of service (HOS), issued in May, fell short of addressing decades-old NTSB safety recommendations. The final rule, which was completed after a 2-year effort and is slated to go into effect September 29, permanently relaxes the HOS rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers. The new final rule puts commercial drivers—and those with whom they share the roads—at increased risk. The NTSB provided comments on this new rule, expressing concern about its safety implications. We do not believe implementing the electronic logging device rule, which should increase HOS compliance, is a rationale for weakening the HOS rules. Read the blog by Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg on the topic.

On July 14, NHTSA published a notice and request for comments on an ICR on drowsy driving. The agency is requesting approval of an ICR to survey a random sampling of drivers on drowsy driving knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Comments were due by Sept. 14.

Require Medical Fitness—Screen for and Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Department of Transportation’s OIG issued a report to Congress on September 2 calling for the FAA to improve oversight of BasicMed to ensure better verification of driver’s licenses and family doctor credentials for pilots. The OIG found that the FAA lacks an effective process to confirm pilots meet all eligibility requirements, such as whether they have a valid U.S. driver’s license. FAA also does not have a process to verify that pilots’ medical examinations are being performed by State-licensed physicians as required. In addition, FAA’s plan to measure the safety impact of the program is limited by a lack of available data.

Strengthen Occupant Protection

In July, the NTSB closed Safety Recommendation M-16-27 to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) acceptably. The recommendation—made in response to the September 24, 2015, DUCK 6 amphibious passenger vehicle accident in Seattle, Washington—asked the USCG to distribute a safety alert on amphibious passenger vehicle operations that addresses the role of risk assessment to mitigate driver distraction, as well as the need to tell passengers to remove seat belts before waterborne operations begin. See the NTSB’s safety alert that was distributed.

On Aug. 11, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation (S.4336/A.6163) requiring all passengers in motor vehicles over the age of 16 to wear a seat belt. Passengers ages 16 and older were only required to wear a seat belt in the front passenger seat next to the driver; now they must wear it in all seating positions. Passengers younger than 16 were already required to be appropriately belted.

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