Tag Archives: Michael Graham

Collision-Avoidance Technologies Can Improve Safety for Teen Drivers

By Member Michael Graham

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, approximately 2,400 teens in the United States aged 13–19 died and about 258,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This means that approximately 7 teens died, and hundreds more were injured, every day due to preventable motor vehicle crashes.

These numbers are staggering and unacceptable.

From our investigations, we know that collision-avoidance technologies—increasingly seen in newer vehicles—can help reduce that number. And a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study has also found that crash-avoidance features and teen-specific vehicle technologies have the potential to prevent or mitigate up to 75% of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Collision-avoidance technologies include features such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), collision warning, and lane departure prevention. These features can serve to warn a driver of an impending crash and stop or slow the vehicle to prevent or mitigate a collision.

To increase awareness about the life-saving capabilities of collision-avoidance technologies among parents, teens, and educators, on March 23, I convened a panel of teen driving safety experts and researchers to explore how collision-avoidance technologies can improve the safety of our teen drivers. ​​ Panelists included representatives from the IIHS, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, OFFICIAL Driving Schools, AAA National, and INRIX, as well as investigators from the NTSB.

During this webinar, we discussed the role of vehicle technology in reducing teen traffic crashes and fatalities. We dove deeper into the IIHS’s recent research on collision-avoidance technology and teen driver safety, explored perspectives from educators and the automotive industry, and addressed how vehicle technology, if made standard in all vehicles, can contribute to equitable and accessible safe transportation for all.

I encourage all of you to watch the full recording of our webinar—but especially if you’re a parent, educator, motor vehicle administrator, or highway department of transportation employee.

One point we all agreed on during the webinar, is that these technologies have the potential to dramatically improve safety for teen drivers. However, they need to be broadly accepted and equitable, and the barriers to adoption—such as education, awareness, availability, and affordability—need to be addressed.

Here were some of the key takeaways, as summed up by our panelists:

  • We need to emphasize education and safe driving behavior. We also need to educate drivers on how these systems function and the role of the driver. It’s important to integrate these technologies into driver skills training to broaden awareness.
  • We must understand how teens are interacting with collision-avoidance systems. There’s an opportunity for engagement with academics and researchers to dig into the data and look at it from a local level.
  • More work should be done for equity and access.
  • Modern training vehicles at driving schools, preparing instructors to educate teens on these technologies, and better communication between driving schools and parents about the benefits of these technologies could instill the benefits of collision-avoidance technologies and encourage voluntary adoption.
  • State departments or agencies that provide training curriculum to driving schools should encourage technology use and incorporate it in the training curriculum.
  • States need to look at their existing graduated driver license law (GDL) and strengthen them to ensure they have a comprehensive GDL program that provides a three-stage graduated process for newly licensed young drivers to gain experience while minimizing risk.
  • We are heading in the wrong direction with fatalities; we must do more at the federal level, with the new car assessment ratings and research to help us guide the technology forward. These collision-avoidance technologies should be standard in all vehicles.

As a result of our crash investigations, the NTSB has made numerous recommendations to implement and encourage the use of collision-avoidance technologies. The topic is highlighted on our 2021–2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements (MWL), and teen driving safety has been a topic on previous MWLs. We encourage you to check out our webpages on these topics to learn more about our specific recommendations.

May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month. If you haven’t already done so this month, take the time to learn more about these technologies—for the sake of your teen and the sake of road safety. The IIHS, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Safety Council all offer information on these technologies. What better way to protect our next generation of drivers than to learn more now about these life-saving technologies? As we all work toward achieving zero traffic deaths and serious injuries on our roads, we must remember that it all begins with preparing our teens with the best possible technologies and strategies for preventing roadway crashes.

NTSB Video Series Highlights Safety Benefits of Connected-Vehicle Technology, Raises Concern about Future of V2X

By Member Michael Graham

Today, the NTSB released a four-part video series: “V2X: Preserving the Future of Connected-Vehicle Technology.” Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) is one of the most promising life-saving technologies available today. While radars and sensors are limited to line-of-sight and are often impeded by inclement weather, V2X technology uses direct communication between vehicles and with infrastructure. Additionally, V2X technology increases the safety and visibility of vulnerable road users by alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists that may be outside a driver’s or vehicle‑based sensor’s field of observation.

Despite the immense safety potential of V2X, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) recent actions threaten its basic viability. In May 2021, the FCC finalized the rulemaking to substantially reduce the available spectrum for V2X applications by 60 percent. This ruling retained only 30 MHz for transportation safety applications and invited interference from the surrounding bands from unlicensed Wi-Fi devices. Research by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) demonstrated that expected interference into the spectrum would further compromise the integrity of safety applications—rendering V2X untenable.

In this video series, I had the privilege of interviewing eight experts from government, industry, academia, and associations about the safety benefits and the maturity level of V2X technology, the reasons for its scarce deployment, and the impact of the FCC’s recent actions to limit the spectrum available for transportation safety.

I talked with some of the leading voices in the V2X space, including:

  • Debby Bezzina, Center for Connected and Automated Transportation, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
  • Bob Kreeb, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Ken Leonard, US Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office
  • Laura Chace, ITS America
  • Scott Marler, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
  • John Hibbard, Georgia Department of Transportation
  • John Capp, General Motors
  • John Kenney, Toyota

The NTSB first issued a safety recommendation to the FCC to allocate spectrum for V2X technology in 1995, and we continue to fervently believe in the promise of V2X technology to save lives.

This series was developed as part of the NTSB’s Most Wanted List safety topic, Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles. I sincerely appreciate each of the eight guests who graciously agreed to participate in the series.

I encourage you to watch all four episodes of this series on the NTSB YouTube channel. You can learn more about the video series, including our featured guests and supporting research, on the NTSB’s V2X web page.

Paying Passengers Deserve Safety on All Flights

By Member Michael Graham

In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required commercial airlines to develop a comprehensive safety management system (SMS) to improve safety for the flying public. An SMS is an organization-wide system that ensures operators are properly identifying, assessing, and mitigating the conditions that exist for an accident to occur.

The FAA, however, has not required the same for revenue passenger-carrying operations under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 91 and 135, leaving passengers on these flights at unnecessary risk. Similar to passengers of commercial airlines, those passengers who pay for a charter flight, skydiving experience, or hot air balloon ride exercise no control and bear no responsibility over the airworthiness or operation of which they are being flown. Therefore, paying passengers of Part 91 and Part 135 flights deserve a similar level of safety as those who fly on a commercial airline. That is why Require and Verify the Effectiveness of Safety Management Systems in all Revenue Passenger-Carrying Aviation Operations is on the NTSB’s 2021–2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

The Problem

Togiak, AK – Separated section of empennage with vertical and horizontal stabilizers and rudder attached.

Since the airlines were required to develop an SMS in 2015, the NTSB continues to investigate Part 91 and Part 135 accidents that could have been prevented by an effective SMS—all involving paying passengers—including the following:

  • On October 2, 2016, Ravn Connect flight 3153, a turbine-powered Cessna 208B Grand Caravan airplane operated under Part 135, collided with steep, mountainous terrain northwest of Togiak Airport in Alaska, killing both commercial pilots and their passenger. The operator did not have an SMS, and we found that after experiencing two previous controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents in the preceding three years the company had missed opportunities to adequately assess this CFIT-related risks and implement more effective strategies for preventing such accidents.
  • On May 15, 2017, a Learjet 35A departed controlled flight while on a circling approach to runway 1 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, and impacted a commercial building and parking lot. The pilot-in-command (PIC) and the second-in-command (SIC) died. The operator lacked both an SMS and a flight data monitoring program, and the company did not identify or mitigate hazards that contributed to this accident, including the pairing of pilots who had exhibited difficulties in training, the informal practice of some captains who allowed unapproved copilots to serve as pilot flying, and other patterns of flight crew procedural noncompliance.
  • On March 11, 2018, an Airbus Helicopters AS350 B2 lost engine power during an aerial photography flight and ditched on the East River in New York City. The pilot sustained minor injuries and his five passengers drowned. Again, the operator lacked an SMS and, although the operator’s employees were aware of the potential hazards that led to the accident, the operator did not have a robust safety program that could adequately prioritize and address hazards that played a role in this accident, including the potential for entanglement of a passenger harness/tether system with floor-mounted engine controls, the inability of passengers to evacuate without assistance, and the possibility the emergency flotation system might only partially inflate due to difficulties with the float activation mechanism.
  • On June 21, 2019, a Beech King Air 65-A90 airplane, N256TA, impacted terrain after takeoff from Dillingham Airfield, Mokuleia, Hawaii. The pilot and 10 passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire. In this accident, the operator failed to address numerous safety issues that a formal SMS would likely have identified as significant risks and prevented the accident. These included allowing passengers to be transported in a poorly maintained airplane, not implementing any standard operating procedures (SOPs) or written guidance for the company’s parachute operations, providing no structured initial or recurrent training for company pilots, using flawed methods in calculating the weight and balance of its flights, and allowing its pilot to routinely violate numerous Federal Aviation Regulations. In April 2021, the NTSB issued Safety Recommendation A-21-13, which asked the FAA to require SMS for the revenue passenger-carrying operations discussed in the Part 91 aviation investigation report; these operations included parachute jump flights.

These accidents seemingly had little in common, yet, in each case, an effective SMS might have helped the operator identify hazards or better mitigate those that were already known.

An Effective SMS

Any operator can print out the four pillars of an SMS, put up a poster, and add an anonymous comment box to the breakroom. However, implementing an effective SMS that changes safety behavior in an organization is not a box-checking exercise. An effective SMS is a management system that brings safety conscious behaviors to the forefront of an organization, which aids in identifying and mitigating risks inherent in flight operations and other activities. Every day, every task.

An effective SMS must fully address the following four pillars:

  • Safety policy
    • Sets objectives, assigns responsibilities, and develops standards
    • Clearly defines roles and responsibilities
    • Engages accountable executive
  • Safety risk management
    • Systematic processes for identifying hazards and mitigating risks
  • Safety assurance
    • Monitors, measures, audits, and assesses the performance of SMS
  • Safety promotion
    • Ensures a positive and just safety culture
    • Circulates and incorporates safety lessons
    • Advocates, communicates, and trains the principles of SMS

By establishing an effective SMS and creating a safety culture that fosters the free flow of safety-related information and organizational learning about the nature of operational risks, operators will reduce the likelihood of an accident and improve the safety of their flight operations.

What Can Be Done

Oversight is necessary to ensure operators adhere to the principles and processes of an effective SMS to provide sufficient safety to paying passengers. The NTSB has investigated numerous accidents involving operators whose deficient SMS failed to identify and mitigate the conditions that contributed to the accident. Therefore, the NTSB calls on the FAA to require SMS for all revenue passenger-carrying Part 91 and Part 135 operations and provide ongoing oversight.

To operators, the NTSB’s investigations repeatedly demonstrate that an effective SMS could have identified the hazards and mitigated the risks that led to the accidents. Do not wait for an accident to occur or a FAA mandate to invest in the safety of your passengers, pilots, and other personnel, voluntarily implement an effective SMS today.

Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation

By Member Michael Graham

Every day more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines across the United States transport enormous volumes of natural gas and liquid petroleum that provide for the nation’s energy needs. These pipelines crisscross the country under our neighborhoods, homes, and businesses. While, statistically, pipelines are the safest method for energy transportation, the NTSB has investigated some accidents that demonstrate the need for improved pipeline leak detection and mitigation:

  • ​On February 23, 2018, a natural gas-fueled explosion at a house in Dallas, Texas, injured all five occupants, one of whom died. The house sustained major structural damage. Investigators located a through-wall crack in the 71-year-old natural gas main that served the residence and positive gas measurements leading from this crack to the residence. Investigators believe the pipeline was likely cracked in 1995 by accidental damage from mechanical excavation equipment. Leaked gas accumulated and eventually ignited from the gas main, which was damaged during a sewer replacement project 23 years earlier. Atmos Energy Corporation failed to detect the leak during an earlier investigation of two related natural gas incidents just two days before the February 23rd explosion.
  • On August 10, 2016, a 14-unit apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland, partially collapsed due to a natural gas-fueled explosion and fire, which also heavily damaged an adjacent apartment building. Seven residents died and 65 were transported to the hospital, along with three firefighters, who were treated and released. The probable cause was the failure of an indoor mercury service regulator with an unconnected vent line, which allowed natural gas into the meter room where it accumulated and ignited.
  • On September 9, 2010, a 30-inch-diameter segment of an intrastate natural gas transmission pipeline, owned and operated by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), ruptured in a residential area in San Bruno, California. The rupture produced a crater about 72 feet long by 26 feet wide. The section of pipe that ruptured, which was about 28 feet long and weighed about 3,000 pounds, was found 100 feet south of the crater. PG&E estimated that 47.6 million standard cubic feet of natural gas was released, ignited, and resulted in a fire that destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70, killing eight people and injuring many more. Several people were evacuated from the area.

High Consequence Area Leaks

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in the last five years, an estimated 1.05 million leaks have been repaired on gas distribution systems. While most pipeline leaks are minor, during the same time, there have been 827 leaks in high-consequence areas – segments of pipeline systems within more populated areas that pose the greatest threat to human life and property – on gas transmission systems, and an estimated 167 accidents on gas distribution and transmission systems.

Leak Detection and Mitigation

Pipelines reliably and efficiently transport the energy that provides heat and electricity for countless Americans. Ensuring the safe distribution and transmission is paramount. Pipeline leak-detection and mitigation tools are essential and can make the difference between a minor leak and a deadly explosion. The NTSB first identified the need for leak-detection and mitigation methods in natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines nearly 50 years ago, but PHMSA, the federal pipeline regulator, has yet to require operators to use these life-saving measures, and many operators have yet to act on their own.

Pipeline systems equipped with leak-detection systems and automatic shutoff valves, or remote‑control valves, can warn operators of an imminent accident and allow for quick mitigation. Also, placing gas service regulators outside buildings can prevent a gas-leak incident; yet, many older homes and multifamily structures still have regulators inside, which can trap accumulating gas and lead to an explosion. And finally, methane detection devices help mitigate the consequences of a natural gas leak by alerting the public, thereby minimizing exposure.

I encourage PHMSA, industry groups, pipeline operators, and the public to work together to ensure the continued safe transportation of our important energy resources.

What is the Solution?

The Role of The Regulator

PHMSA is trusted to act on behalf of citizens to enhance pipeline safety. To better protect public safety, the NTSB has called on PHMSA to:

  • Require all operators of natural-gas transmission and distribution pipelines to equip their supervisory control and data-acquisition systems with tools to help recognize leaks and pinpoint their location.
  • Require automatic shutoff valves or remote-control valves to be installed in high‑consequence areas and in class 3 and 4 locations.
  • Require that all new service regulators be installed outside occupied structures and that existing interior service regulators be relocated whenever the gas service line, meter, or regulator is replaced. Multifamily structures should be prioritized over single-family dwellings.
  • Require methane-detection systems in residential occupancies with gas service.

The Role of Industry Groups

Gas industry groups can also play a critical role in improving public safety. The NTSB urges industry groups to:

  • Revise the National Fuel Gas Code, National Fire Protection Association 54 to require methane-detection systems for all types of residential occupancies with gas service.
  • Develop additional guidance for gas distribution operators so they can safely respond to leaks, fires, explosions, and emergency calls.

Operators Can Enhance Safety Directly

Regardless of when—or if—PHMSA makes the NTSB’s recommended changes, pipeline operators can take steps now to mitigate gas pipeline risks. The NTSB recommends operators take the following action:

  • Review and update, as needed, their incident-reporting practices; policies and procedures for responding to leaks, fires, explosions, and emergency calls; and integrity management programs.
  • Equip supervisory control and data-acquisition systems with tools to assist in leak detection.
  • Install remote-closure and automatic-shutoff valves in high-consequence areas and class 3 and 4 locations.

These steps taken by the regulator, industry groups, and operators can reduce gas pipeline risks.

What You Can Do

The public also has an important role in preventing pipeline leaks and incidents.

The most common cause of a pipeline leak is accidental damage. If you are planting a tree, installing a fence, or digging on your property for any other reason, call 8-1-1 before you dig. The NTSB has investigated numerous accidents in which accidental damage played a role.

You can also greatly decrease the possibility of an undetected gas buildup by purchasing and properly installing a methane detector in your home. Early detection is critical.

As a reminder, if you ever smell gas, please evacuate the area, and contact 9-1-1 and the gas company.

Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation is a safety item highlighted on the 2021-2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

Learn more on NTSB.gov

In this video, NTSB Member Michael Graham and HAZMAT Investigator Rachel Gunaratnam, talk about why leak-detection and mitigation tools are essential and can make the difference between a minor incident and a deadly explosion.

Atmos Energy Corporation Natural Gas-Fueled Explosion
Dallas, TX | February 2018

Building Explosion and Fire
Silver Spring, MD | August 2016

Pacific Gas and Electric Company Natural Gas Pipeline Rupture and Fire
San Bruno, CA | September 2010

It’s Time to Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles

By Member Michael Graham

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injuries in the United States. Early estimates for 2020 show that more than 38,000 people lost their lives in traffic crashes on our nation’s roads. These preventable tragedies are often due to driver mistakes and poor decisions—speeding or driving while impaired, distracted, or fatigued. Collision-avoidance technologies have the potential to mitigate the impact of these mistakes by alerting a driver to impending danger or actively reducing the vehicle’s speed if the driver does not act.

“Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles” is on the NTSB’s 2021–2022 Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements to increase public awareness about collision-avoidance systems as a lifesaving technology. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should develop comprehensive performance standards and mandates for collision-avoidance systems and connected-vehicle technology, and we urge NHTSA to incorporate collision-avoidance system ratings into its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

Collision-Avoidance Systems

The primary goal of any collision-avoidance technology is to prevent and mitigate the severity of crashes by detecting a conflict, alerting the driver and, when necessary, automatically braking. A standard collision-avoidance system is comprised of two separate technologies that work together to prevent and mitigate crashes: forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Forward collision warning assists a driver by presenting an auditory, visual, or haptic warning to the driver before a collision. Typically, once a warning occurs and a driver does not respond, automatic emergency braking autonomously applies the brakes to prevent or mitigate a crash.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an estimated 56 precent of rear‑end crashes that result in injuries could be prevented if passenger vehicles were equipped with a combination of forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. These technologies can also improve the safety of commercial trucks. The IIHS found that equipping large trucks with both of these systems could eliminate more than 40 percent of crashes in which a large truck rear-ends another vehicle.

Despite the proven safety benefit of collision-avoidance systems, these lifesaving technologies are not required as standard options on passenger vehicles or commercial trucks. NHTSA’s regulatory inaction has delayed the broad deployment of these systems for too long. NHTSA must require forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking on all passenger vehicles and commercial trucks.

Performance Standards

Although more collision-avoidance technologies have been deployed into new vehicles recently, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking performance and reliability vary significantly among vehicle manufacturers and models. Performance standards specify the minimum level of performance for these technologies, and NHTSA has been slow to adopt comprehensive performance standards and criteria to assess these systems. Testing protocols to assess the performance of forward collision-avoidance systems should be expanded to include common obstacles, such as traffic safety hardware, cross-traffic vehicle profiles, and other applicable vehicle shapes or objects found in the highway operating environment.  Further, testing protocols should also assess their performance at various speeds that represent the wide range of speed conditions seen in crashes, including high speeds. NHTSA should set robust minimum performance standards for both systems to provide consumers with confidence and certainty of the safety benefits of these technologies.

New Car Assessment Program

The NCAP is a government resource, developed by NHTSA, that evaluates and rates the crashworthiness of all passenger vehicles. Consumers rely on NHTSA’s vehicle safety ratings to make informed purchasing decisions for their safety and that of their loved ones. The NCAP has been an effective tool for informing the public about a vehicle’s crashworthiness; however, the current NCAP does not rate collision-avoidance technologies such as forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. This allows a vehicle without collision-avoidance technology to achieve the same safety rating as a vehicle equipped with a highly effective collision‑avoidance system.

The NTSB recommends that NHTSA expand the NCAP to rate collision-avoidance technology performance. Such a rating can inform the public about a vehicle’s capacity to prevent and mitigate crashes, as well as differentiate collision-avoidance systems based on their performance. Incorporating collision-avoidance system ratings into the NCAP also provides an incentive for vehicle manufacturers to equip new vehicles with forward collision-avoidance systems, which can speed up deployment of such systems into all vehicles.

Connected-Vehicle Technologies

One of the most promising lifesaving collision-avoidance technologies being researched and developed for nearly three decades is connected-vehicle technology. This technology does not rely on radar or cameras but on direct communication between vehicles, called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications. This technology also allows vehicles to communicate with infrastructure and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians—collectively known as vehicle-to-everything communications (V2X).         

The NTSB’s investigations have found that V2X communications-based technology could address many crash scenarios, including many intersection crashes. Additionally, connected-vehicle technology increases the safety and visibility of vulnerable road users by alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists that may be outside a driver’s or vehicle‑based sensor’s field of observation.  

However, connected-vehicle technology depends on an available communications spectrum. Currently, the entire program is at risk due to a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow shared use of a wireless communications band previously dedicated solely for transportation safety. We are concerned that sharing this spectrum could compromise successful connected-vehicle technology deployment. The NTSB urges the FCC and others to overcome this communications challenge so connected-vehicle technology can be deployed widely and securely.

Bottom Line

Every day we lose more than 100 lives in preventable traffic crashes on our nation’s roads. Humans make mistakes that lead to crashes, but technology can mitigate those mistakes, avoiding death and serious injuries. Collision-avoidance technologies assist drivers by alerting a driver to an impending crash and automatically stopping the vehicle if the driver does not act. This proven, lifesaving technology is available today.

Tragically, regulatory inaction has slowed both deployment and broad availability of these technologies. The NTSB calls on the NHTSA to:

  • require forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking on all passenger vehicles and commercial trucks,
  • adopt comprehensive performance standards and criteria to assess these systems, and
  • expand the NCAP to rate the performance of collision-avoidance technologies.

Any further delay will cost more lives.