The National Transportation Safety Board’s latest “Most Wanted List” of the top 10 transportation safety improvements highlight several highway and driver-related safety recommendations, including a recommendation to require collision-avoidance technologies on all vehicles.
The 2021-2022 Most Wants List defines the focus of the NTSB’s advocacy work and directs their limited resources toward improvements with the “greatest potential to make the greatest impact” on saving lives, reducing injuries and preventing accidents and crashes.
Of the top ten recommendations, the highway and driver-related safety related recommendations were to:
- implement a comprehensive strategy to eliminate speeding-related crashes;
- require collision-avoidance and connect-vehicle technologies on all vehicles;
- prevent alcohol- and other drug-impaired driving; and
- eliminate distracted driving.
Eliminate Speeding-Related Crashes
Speeding is one of the most common highway crash factors in the U.S., with more than 9,000 speeding-related crash fatalities in 2018 and 2019, according to a NTSB presentation.
Speed increases crash risk by increasing the likelihood of being involved in a crash and increasing the severity of injuries sustained by all road users in a crash.
The current level of emphasis on speeding as a national traffic safety issue is lower than warranted, NTSB officials said, and there are no nationwide programs to increase public awareness of the risks of speeding.
Furthermore, slow progress in implementing recommendations has delayed the adoption of proven and emerging speeding countermeasures. Those countermeasures, which NTSB is again recommending include:
- alternative approaches for setting speed limits;
- vehicle technologies for reducing speeding;
- local, high-visibility speed enforcement activities;
- automated speed enforcement; and
- a national public awareness campaign.
Require Collision-Avoidance, Connect-Vehicle Tech
Most (94%) crashes are caused by driver error, and collision-avoidance systems and connected vehicle technologies can prevent about 80% of these crashes, NTSB officials said.
Without these technologies, we will continue to see over 100 fatalities a day, according to NTSB’s Director of Highway Safety Robert Molloy safety recommendation presentation.
Yet, these systems are not standard or available on a large portion of vehicles despite being first recommended by the safety board in 1995, NSTB officials said.
Officials said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been slow in developing performance standards, and the Federal Communications Commission has substantially shrunk the communication spectrum assigned for connected vehicle technologies.
Prevent Drug-Impaired Driving
Driving under the influence is a leading cause of traffic fatalities. Each year, over 10,000 people are killed in drunk-driving crashes, NTSB officials said. As many as one in five drivers test positive for a potentially impairing drug.
It has been nearly a decade since NTSB issued recommendations for a .05 blood alcohol limit, all-offender interlocks and drug-testing. Only Utah has enacted the .05 legislation, and 28 states do not have all-offender interlock requirements.
Drug-impaired driving also made the Most Wanted List in 2019.
Eliminate Distracted Driving
Distracted driving results in over 3,000 fatalities annually, and drivers continue to use portable electronic devices while driving considering no state bans all device use.
NTSB first issued the recommendation to ban all portable electronic device use two decades ago. The issue made the Most Wanted List for the 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 editions as well.
“The items on the list as adopted are our best chance to make progress toward safer transportation,” said NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt during its April 6 virtual board meeting. “Just because something is not on the list, it doesn't mean it is not important. We are taking 1,200 recommendations, categorizing them and putting them into areas … that we feel have the greatest opportunity, that are ripe for improvement.”