Travel, be it by car, airplane or rail has a certain component of danger to it, that's just the behavior of the humans who operate that equipment, the equipment itself and in many cases, Mother Nature.
Keeping the public as safe as possible in all of its traveling endeavors are a number of public and government agencies and one of the most important - the National Transportation Safety Board today issued its 2014 Most Wanted List, or its top 10 travel safety advocacy and awareness priorities.
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In the list for the first time, the agency said is the safety of rail mass transit use.
From the NTSB: "Millions of Americans rely on commuter rail, subways and light rail for their daily commute. The NTSB in just the past year has opened investigations into accidents involving MTA Metro-North Railroad, Chicago Transit Authority and the Bay Area Rapid Transit. And there are still open safety recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stemming from its fatal crash in 2009.
In numerous accident investigation reports on mass transit, the Board has repeatedly identified the need for safety improvements, particularly with regard to safety culture and operational practices, in systems providing light, heavy and commuter rail. The traveling public relies on a safe and efficient transportation system. Yet, every year, we see over 35,000 fatalities."
Beyond rail travel issues, the NTSB list includes:
Distraction: Accident investigations and safety studies conducted by the NTSB in all modes of transportation underscore the dangers of using portable electronic devices while operating a car, train, plane or marine vessel. In addition to banning the use of these devices while driving, education and company policies help to reinforce laws and regulations by explaining the dangers of distraction and what companies expect from their employees.
A 2013 survey conducted by the American Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety identified a number of disturbing trends; for example, nearly 70% of drivers reported talking on cell phones while driving in the past 30 days, about 25% of drivers admitted to typing text and electronic mail messages while driving, and about 35% reported reading text or electronic mail messages while driving. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2013 report, drivers engaging in visual-manual tasks, such as dialing or texting, increases the risk of a crash by three times.
The United States needs a cultural shift that prioritizes distraction-free transportation operations. To effect and sustain such a change, we need more than effective laws and regulations, strong and consistent enforcement, and pervasive education. We need to build a social infrastructure that dissuades distracted operations at all times, starting with new and existing drivers who are the agents of change, extending through their family and community support systems to reinforce appropriate behaviors, to the local and regional educational and enforcement to ensure proper guidance and corrections for behaviors, the NTSB stated.
Helicopter operations: Between January 2003 and May 2013, 1,470 helicopter accidents have occurred, with 477 fatalities and 274 serious injuries. The U.S. civil helicopter industry continues to see overwhelming growth and demand for emergency medical services, law enforcement support, electronic news gathering, offshore oil and gas support, as well as a variety of other applications. There is no simple solution for reducing helicopter accidents but safety improvements to address helicopter operations have the potential to mitigate risk to thousands of pilots and passengers each year.
Occupant protection: While preventing accidents is always the goal, saving lives and reducing injuries in the event of an accident is also critical. Increasing the use of available occupant protection systems and improving crashworthiness to preserve survivable space can mean the difference between life and death, the NTSB stated.
Passenger boat safety. Between 2000 and 2010, the NTSB has investigated several accidents involving passenger vessels. For decades, NTSB accident investigations involving passenger vessels revealed in numerous cases that the cause of an accident was not the failure of the vessel but the lack of good safety practices that led to the loss of life and injuries.
Fire Safety: The NTSB has issued numerous recommendations where fire was caused by power sources, as well as recommendations on survivability in the event of a fire, and improving fire detection and suppression systems, the NTSB stated.
General Aviation: Identify and communicate hazardous weather. A frequent cause or contributing factor to general aviation accidents is a failure to recognize or take appropriate steps to avoid hazardous weather. The NTSB investigated a total of 1,466 general aviation accidents in 2011, resulting in 444 deaths.
Pipeline Safety: Two and a half million miles of pipeline crisscross the nation powering thousands of homes and delivering important resources, such as oil and gasoline, to consumers. The NTSB is currently investigating a pipeline explosion in Birmingham, Ala. and a rupture and fire in Sissonville, W.Va. that destroyed three homes.
Positive Train Control: The NTSB has long been calling for use of this technology, which works by monitoring the location and movement of trains, then slowing or stopping a train that is not being operated in accordance with signal systems or operating rules. Since 2004, the NTSB has completed investigations of 25 train accidents that killed 65, injured over 1,100 and caused millions of dollars in damages -- all of which could have been prevented or mitigated by PTC, the NTSB stated.
Substance-Impaired Driving: In 2012 more than 10,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. involved an alcohol-impaired driver, according to NHTSA. Drugs also affect driving ability.
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