The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the government agency responsible for overseeing the safety of truck and bus companies. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, failures by those regulators have led to multiple fatal bus crashes in recent months. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman released a statement last week, discussing the findings of an investigation into FMCSA actions. The investigation raised questions about the effectiveness of the FMCSA in ensuring that carriers are following established safety guidelines.
The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal body with a number of safety-related responsibilities. It is charged with investigating all civil aviation accidents, as well as significant accidents in railroad, marine and highway transportation situations. It also conducts safety studies, puts forth safety recommendations and assists the victims of transportation accidents and their families. During the partial government shutdown, the majority of NTSB employees have been furloughed. As a result, a number of investigations are currently on hold. The head of the NTSB has asked the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to take the necessary steps to allow the group to resume its safety mission.
The National Transportation Safety Board voted unanimously in support of a proposal to lower blood alcohol limits for drunk driving from .08 to .05 last May. The group contended that adoption of a lower standard would save between 500 and 800 lives every year by reducing drunk driving car accidents. Since that proposal, no state has moved to make the recommended change and several prominent safety organizations have failed to endorse the move. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Governors Highway Safety Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving have declined to endorse the move. Despite the cool response NTSB chair Deborah Hersman indicated that the group is confident that the lower BAC limit will eventually be adopted.
Federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have indicated that text messaging by the pilot in a fatal 2011 medical helicopter crash contributed to the accident. Texting and flying was not the only contributing factor to the aviation incident listed by the NTSB, but it did mark the first time that text messaging was cited as a contributing factor in a commercial aviation accident. The crash claimed the lives of four people, including the pilot, a nurse, a paramedic and the patient the helicopter had picked up
The National Transportation Safety Board has listed general aviation safety on its Most Wanted List of safety improvements for three consecutive years. Following last month's fatal plane crash in South Bend, Indiana, the NTSB issued five safety alerts intended to make general aviation safer. The NTSB cited the fact that more than 1,500 GA accidents occur per year in the United States and that the majority of those accidents are preventable. The safety alerts offer practical remedies to problems that are commonly associated with general aviation accidents.
The National Transportation Safety Board has issued recommendations to address the problems that led to two railroad accidents last year. The accidents occurred in Michigan and Illinois last year. The accident in Illinois, which occurred in February of last year, killed a woman who was driving when she collided with the train. According to the NTSB, both accidents were caused by railroad workers failing to follow required safety precautions.
The National Transportation Safety Board has made 19 total recommendations across several Transportation Department agencies. Some of the suggested changes stem from the NTSB investigation of a deadly 2011 crash in which a semi-truck hit an Amtrak train. That wreck claimed the lives of 6 people and left many more injured.
Safety regulators have grounded all Boeing 787 Dreamliners until issues concerning the lithium-ion batteries and chargers have been addressed. Battery problems forced an emergency landing of a Dreamliner in Japan earlier this month. That incident followed a battery fire after a 787 landed in Boston. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is broadening the scope of its investigation into the electrical problems of the Boeing aircraft.
In 2002, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report criticizing the aerial firefighting capability of the U.S. Forest Service. A review of aviation accident reports from the NTSB shows that six people died in air tanker crashes while on firefighting missions this year. At least 22 have died in such accidents in the last 10 years. According to critics, the issues that caused the NTSB to issue that report in 2002 have not been addressed. The Forest Service continues to use outdated planes that are not ideally suited to battling wildfires.
Air travel with small children presents parents with many challenges. For some parents, air travel is made more attractive by a common policy among airlines of not charging for children under the age of 2, if the child sits on a parent's lap. This policy may confuse parents into thinking that their children will be safe in such a position. The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted accident investigations which concluded that children survived because they were seated in an infant seat with proper restraints. Despite the recommendations of the NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration and airlines have maintained an infant seat exception which allows children less than 2 years of age to fly unrestrained or ride on a parent's lap.