National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC - National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman, Marion Blakey today warned that operator fatigue remains a primary cause of serious transportation accidents throughout the United States. "Many times and throughout all modes of transportation, our investigations have found that lost sleep equals lost lives," said Blakey.
The NTSB is highlighting its ongoing concern at the beginning of National Sleep Awareness Week (April 1 - 7) to raise public consciousness on the need for vehicle operators to be well rested. Blakey noted that proper sleep is especially critical on our nation's highways. "Each year, highway crashes cause the most transportation-related fatalities," said Blakey. "Of these crashes, recent research shows 100,000 of them involved "drowsy driving" and resulted in 1,500 fatalities."
In other modes of transportation, development of effective fatigue countermeasures has been a perennial priority on the Safety Board's "Most Wanted" list of safety improvements. Analysis of marine vessel casualties cite fatigue as a cause in 16% of accidents. In aviation, the Safety Board recently completed an investigation of an American Airlines crash with 10 fatalities and 105 injuries in Little Rock, Arkansas, where pilot fatigue was a contributing factor. On the nation's rails, fatigue contributed to nearly 20 accidents over the last decade.
A 1999 Safety Board study of government efforts to address the fatigue issue found that, despite a number of initiatives, little progress had been made in revising regulations to incorporate the latest research on sleep issues. "We can do more to stem the fatalities, injuries and property damage that result from operators who should be in bed rather than behind the wheel," Blakey said. The NTSB Chairman re-emphasized the Board's recommendations that the Department of Transportation and its modal agencies establish scientifically-based hours-of-service regulations that reasonably limit duty hours and provide adequate time for rest.
"We are a nation on the move 24 hours a day and this increasingly exposes all of us to the dangers of operator fatigue, not only when we travel but also where we live, work and play," said Blakey. "Combating fatigue is not just a problem for government or for the pilot, ship's officer, train engineer or truck driver, it is the collective responsibility of each and every person who operates a vehicle."
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.