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Agenda for NTSB Aviation Forum Released

When a pilot loses control of an aircraft in flight, the results can be catastrophic. Preventing loss of control in flight in general aviation is on the 2015 Most Wanted List of safety improvements for the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB recently released the agenda for its upcoming general aviation safety forum, to be held on October 14 in Washington D.C. The forum is titled, Humans and Hardware: Preventing General Aviation In Flight Loss of Control. The NTSB is specifically requesting that pilots and others in the aviation community submit questions related to in flight loss of control for consideration at the forum.

Four panels have been arranged to cover GA topics. The panels will cover industry and government perspectives and actions; human performance and medical issues; pilot training solutions; and equipment and technology solutions. Each panel discussion will be free and open to the public and the entire event is available live by webcast. 

A Call for Tighter Regulation

A scandal uncovered by one agency has led another to consider cracking down on the auto industry. The Environmental Protection Agency recently discovered that Volkwagen carefully engineered software to skirt U.S. emissions standards. VW diesel vehicles were programmed to run differently when being tested than during normal operation. After an EPA investigation, Volkswagen could be fined billions of dollars for its actions. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested that the actions of VW's executives demonstrate the need for tighter regulation in the realm of safety.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind indicated that the agency has room to carry out an investigation into VW based on its duplicitous actions. The EPA investigation will naturally target fuel economy and emissions. An NHTSA investigation would target the potential safety implications of the actions and culture at VW. 

The Push for Automatic Brakes

Automatic emergency braking systems are a technological solution to a common type of car accident, the rear-end collision. Distracted, fatigued, impaired or infirm drivers may apply brakes too late or too softly to avoid an accident. AEB systems provide automatic braking or supplemental braking to reduce the severity of a crash or avoid it altogether. These systems are not standard features on new vehicles at this time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently took steps to encourage the technology, without going through the process of making it a federal requirement.

According to the NHTSA, there are roughly 1.7 million rear-end accidents per year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that AEB technology could reduce insurance industry claims by as much as 35 percent by helping drivers avoid or mitigate the damage related to these collisions. While AEB systems are promising, they are not common. Only 1 percent of new cars sold in 2015 came with automatic braking as a standard feature. It was an available option on 26 percent of 2015 vehicles. 

Focus on Rail Safety

Illinois Rail Safety Week runs from Sept. 13-19. During the week, safety agencies, railroads, law enforcement agencies and private corporations will coordinate to emphasize the importance of rail safety. Illinois is among the nation's leaders in rail injuries and fatalities. In 2013, Illinois saw the third most grade grossing deaths and the second most trespasser fatalities. In 2014, Illinois saw the second most vehicle collision fatalities and maintained its position in third for trespasser fatalities. The hope is that by emphasizing rail safety awareness and education, the number of deaths and injuries can be reduced.

Law enforcement officers will make a point to enforce the laws concerning railroad tracks and crossings. Many drivers and pedestrians who violate these laws will be cited. In Illinois, it is illegal to stop a vehicle on railroad tracks or within the highway-rail grade crossing. Despite the laws against stopping in these areas, more than two-thirds of all collisions take place at crossings equipped with protective gate arms and other active warning devices, according to Illinois Operation Lifesaver. 

Bike Injuries on the Rise

A recent study confirmed that there was a sharp increase in the number of adult bicycling injuries between 1998 and 2013. The study involved data gathered in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, combined with U.S. Census information. It revealed that the increase is driven, in part, by rising injuries in bicyclists older than 45. According to one study author, ridership among people in that age group is at an all time high.

The increase in injuries to older riders is substantial. Less than one-quarter of bike accident injuries involved riders over 45 in 1998. By 2013, 42 percent of injuries were suffered by riders in that age group. In terms of population, 96 bike injuries were reported per 100,000 people in 1998. In 2013, that number had risen to 123 injuries. The injuries may be increasing in severity, as well. Hospital admissions records show that 5 people per 100,000 were hospitalized in 1998 compared to 11 per 100,000 in 2013. 

Bigger, Bolder Dashboard Displays in Demand

The majority of U.S. states have banned texting while driving. In an effort to attract new buyers, automakers are introducing larger and more advanced dashboard displays, some of which allow drivers to read text messages. Lawmakers and safety experts are concerned about the potential for increased levels of distracted driving based on the latest trends in dashboard technology.

The dashboard displays on new vehicles are larger than previous versions. They are also more closely aligned with functions provided by the latest smart phones. Automakers allege that the new displays will improve safety because the touch screens are larger, and therefore easier to use, and also because they are more easily operated through voice controls. Critics contend that the devices encourage drivers to take their eyes off the road for unsafe periods of time. 

FAA Study Shows Fatigue Problems Among Air Traffic Controllers

Fatigue can have a substantial impact on your ability to complete a task successfully. In the aviation industry, studies on fatigue have often focused on pilots. Fatigue is also a potential safety hazard for others in the aviation industry, including air traffic controllers. A study of controllers completed in 2011 shows that the typical work schedules used in the industry can lead to chronic fatigue.

The study was conducted following a recommendation by the NTSB that the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to change the way controllers were scheduled. The practices in place were not providing enough time to rest between shifts, according to the NTSB. The study involved survey responses collected from more than 3,000 air traffic controllers. It also included data collected from more than 200 controllers regarding sleep and mental alertness. 

When Safety Fits, Part Two

Choosing a Motorcycle Helmet

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a helmet improves your chances of surviving a motorcycle crash by 29 percent. NHTSA studies have demonstrated that wearing a helmet does not hurt a rider's ability to see or respond to traffic. There is no valid safety reason not to wear a helmet. That said, choosing the right helmet is important in maximizing the value of the safety equipment.

The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a certification standard for motorcycle helmet models. The first thing to check in choosing a helmet is whether a particular model is DOT certified. There is no shortage of helmets that are not certified. DOT regulations ban the sale of non-certified helmets designated as "motorcycle helmets" but manufacturers get around this by marketing them in different ways. A "novelty helmet" may have a design that appeals to riders, but they may offer little protection in the event of an accident. 

Emotional Support Animals and Aviation Safety

For many reasons, a certain percentage of travelers choose to bring their pets with them on airline flights. While traveling with a pet can be soothing, a new phenomenon has taken the practice further. Flight attendants are noticing an increase in the number of passengers bringing emotional support animals onto flights. The flight attendants worry that the practice could become a danger, particularly if the plane needed to be evacuated in an emergency.

United Airlines and Delta each charge $125 each way for domesticated cats, dogs, rabbits and birds to ride in the aircraft cabin. Owners must transport their animals in a pet kennel and that kennel must fit under the seat in front of the passenger. The fee does not apply to trained service animals or to emotional support and psychiatric assist animals. The type of animals passengers can designate as emotional support animals is also broader than what is considered a pet. Other than snakes, almost any animal can be an emotional support animal, provided the passenger has the proper documentation. 

When Safety Fits, Part One

Most parents are aware that their children need to be placed in car seats when they are young. Finding and installing the right car seat is not as easy as it sounds. Other decisions, such as when to turn a rear-facing car seat around, when to switch to a booster seat and when to allow your child to ride with just a normal seat belt are also not necessarily straightforward. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers advice to parents and guardians looking to make the safest choices for kids. They offer several tips to make the decision-making process easier.

The first tip in choosing a car seat is to make sure the seat works with your vehicle. Some cars and car seats are built with an installation system known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH makes installation easier in many ways because they do not rely on seat belts to secure the car seat. If your vehicle is not equipped with LATCH, you need to select a seat that can be installed using seat belts only. 

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