Safety & Compliance

NTSB'S Most Wanted List Includes Mandatory Collision Avoidance, Aims at Distracted Driving

November 14, 2012

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The National Transportation Safety Board released its 2013 Most Wanted List, with six of the 10 issues focusing on highway travel. Particular priorities of interest to the trucking industry include mandating vehicle collision avoidance technology, preserving the transportation infrastructure, and eliminating distracted and impaired driving.


The new annual list of the independent federal safety agency's top advocacy priorities calls for ending distraction in all modes of transportation. Distraction was the cause of multiple accidents investigated by the agency in recent years.

"Transportation is safer than ever, but with 35,000 annual fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries, we can, and must, do better," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "The Most Wanted List is a roadmap to improving safety for all of our nation's travelers."

The list covers all transportation modes. There are six new issue areas - distraction, fire safety, infrastructure integrity, pipeline safety, positive train control and motor vehicle collision avoidance technologies.

Mandate Motor Vehicle Collision Avoidance Technology

Regardless of a driver's skills, sudden changes by other drivers and changes in vehicle controllability pose significant safety risks. For unaware drivers, the consequences can be deadly. Some of the most deadly accident circumstances involve rear-end collisions, run-off-the road, loss of control, speeding, and out-of-adjustment brakes-which are often not under the control of a single person.

In June 2009, a truck driver did not react to the queue of slowing and stopped vehicles ahead and collided with six passenger vehicles in Miami, Okla., because of fatigue. If a driver receives warnings of an imminent collision, he or she may be able to bring the vehicle to a safe and controlled stop.

There are technologies that can work with the driver to improve driver reaction time. Lane departure warning, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and electronic stability control have all been proven to aid drivers when they are faced with unexpected conditions, particularly when traveling at highway speeds or when operating larger commercial vehicles that require greater stopping distances. Other systems, such as tire pressure monitoring, onboard monitoring (for commercial drivers), and speed-limiting technology, can warn drivers of imminent threats or diminish the possibility of encountering dangerous conditions.

These technologies are available today in many vehicles. However, they are options that a vehicle owner can add, and some technologies are not even required to meet performance standards. NTSB says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should establish performance standards where needed and mandate that these technologies be included as standard equipment in cars and commercial motor vehicles alike.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that run-off-road, rear-end, and lane change maneuvers account for 23%, 28%, and 9% of highway accidents, respectively. Vehicle collision avoidance technologies can prevent these types of accidents.

Preserve the Integrity of Transportation Infrastructure

Every day, people, goods, and services move across the country through our skies, and on our highways, pipelines, railways, and waterways.

While inspection guidance exists in the United States, the inspection guidance provided for the owners and inspectors of the 600,000 bridges across the country is sometimes incomplete-which has contributed to disasters such as the 2007 collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people.

Incidents like these are clear indicators that it is imperative to maintain the integrity of our infrastructure, says the NTSB.

The highway network may present the largest problem in ensuring structural integrity. Although state and local governments control most roadways and bridges in the United States, highways serve as part of an integrated national network.

The board says it is imperative that the Federal Highway Administration ensure that bridge inspector training is comprehensive and consistent across the country so that no issues are overlooked. Despite state and local governments owning roadways and bridges, there must be a national inspection standard that raises the bar of infrastructure integrity.

Elimination of Distraction and Substance-Impaired Driving in Transportation

Over the past 10 years, the NTSB has investigated numerous accidents that have demonstrated the danger of using portable electronic devices while operating a vehicle. Talking hands-free on a cell phone led to a seasoned motorcoach driver colliding with a bridge in Alexandria, Va., in November 2004.

To eliminate distracted driving, NTSB says states and regulators can set the proper tone by banning the nonessential use of such devices in transportation.

It also says companies should develop and vigorously enforce policies to eliminate distractions. Manufacturers can help by developing technology that disables the devices when in reach of operators.

Accident investigators at the Federal, state, and local levels should also incorporate in their protocols a system for checking whether the nonessential use of portable electronic devices led to accidents.

Click the link to the NTSB's website with a full description of the 2013 Most Wanted list. www.ntsb.gov

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