The more time that passes following an accident, the harder it is to determine the cause of that accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is asking the Federal Aviation Administration to make several changes it hopes will allow plane crashes to be found faster and will aid in investigating those crashes. The eight recommendations from the NTSB to the FAA were outlined in a 13-page letter this week. The FAA promised to review the recommendations and prepare a formal response.
The National Transportation Safety Board released its priority list of safety initiatives for 2015 this week. Trucking safety appears on the list and was the subject of some pointed remarks directed toward regulators. The NTSB pointed out that it has made more than 100 recommendations of ways to improve truck safety that have not been acted on by highway regulators. While the total number of fatal accidents has trended downward over the past four years, trucking fatalities have risen in each of those years. The NTSB only has the power to make recommendations. It does not have the authority to make or enforce trucking regulations.
The National Transportation Safety Board lists general aviation among its top ten advocacy priorities in 2014. According to the NTSB, general aviation accidents make up the vast majority of aviation-related deaths in the U.S. The NTSB has been charged with conducting investigations into aviation accidents for nearly 50 years and has conducted numerous safety studies to improve aviation safety. Not all aviation incidents are treated equally, however. An analysis conducted by USA Today shows that aviation accidents involving prominent, politically-connected people or celebrities receive substantially more attention from NTSB investigators than other crashes.
Thankfully, parents today accept it as common sense that children, particularly young children, should be in appropriate car seats anytime they travel in a motor vehicle. This is due in large part to strict laws regarding car seat use for children.
If you've been following national news, you may have seen ongoing reports of a fatal bus-truck collision in California. A tractor-trailer collided with a motorcoach that was carrying about 40 high school students, and a bus window had to be kicked out for many of the students to escape. Flames engulfed the truck and the bus, and 10 people lost their lives. The tragedy underscores the need for updated safety standards for large buses.
In recent years, the Federal Aviation Administration has addressed the problem of fatigue among on-duty airline pilots. Studies have shown that operator fatigue can result in impairment similar to the effects of alcohol, and federal restrictions are currently in place to help ensure that pilots get enough sleep.
The National Transportation Safety Board has released its list of the 10 areas in which it will be focusing its advocacy in 2014. The list includes the areas the NTSB most wants to address to reduce transportation accidents. Three of the areas of focus which are likely to involve changes by the general public are: eliminating distraction in transportation, eliminating substance-impaired driving, and strengthening occupant protection in transportation. Each of these areas has the potential to save thousands of lives by preventing car accidents or improving a person's chances of escaping an accident without serious injury.
In 2008, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all trains be equipped with video cameras to monitor track conditions, signal conditions, and train engineer actions in the event of an accident. The recommendations were made following a Metrolink train wreck in Los Angeles that claimed the lives of 25 people. The Metro-North Railroad derailment in the Bronx earlier this month has renewed interest in the safety measures. That accident led to four fatalities and 71 injuries when the engineer allowed the train to enter a 30-mph curve and more than 80 mph. Video cameras would give an insight into what occurred in the train's control cab leading up to the derailment.
The transportation industry has long been plagued by a condition known as highway hypnosis or white-line fever. Some are claiming the condition was responsible for the commuter train crash on the Metro-North Railroad in New York earlier this month. The condition involves a driver, or in this case a train engineer, who is lulled into a semi-trance state by the monotonous nature of the journey. Anyone who has driven long distances can recognize the hypnotic quality of mile after mile of basically unchanging scenery. The condition often leaves the vehicle operator with little to no memory of portions, sometimes large portions, of the journey.
A 1968 accident involving a drunk driver and a tour bus claimed the lives of 19 victims and prompted calls for seat belts on the commercial vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board has repeatedly asked the government to pass measures to protect bus passengers in the 45 years that have followed that accident. The NTSB even cited government inaction in its report following a Utah bus accident in which a rollover killed 9 people and injured 43 others. Most recently, regulations mandating the inclusion of seat belts on new buses were to be completed in September. Those regulations are still being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.