National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board today challenged State legislatures and officials to make transportation safety a top "political priority" by enacting and enforcing laws to cut down on the tens of thousands of people who are killed and injured on the nation's highways and waterways every year.
During a public meeting today, the NTSB reviewed its Most Wanted List of safety improvements aimed at the States. The list urges States to take dozens of actions to reduce the carnage on the roads by requiring booster seats for young children; getting habitually drunk drivers off the road; requiring graduated driver licensing, teen passenger restrictions, and wireless communications prohibitions for new drivers. The List also urges States to adopt laws that require young children to wear life jackets and boaters and renters of jet skis to get safety instruction, and additional safety standards for school buses when they use routes containing railroad grade crossings.
NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said progress has been made by many States, but more needs to done.
"Every single one of our recommendations is important and when implemented will improve safety." Rosenker said. "Our Most Wanted program aims to highlight the safety recommendations the Board believes should be acted on as soon as possible because they have the most potential to improve safety, save lives, and reduce accidents and injuries."
The recommendations on the Most Wanted List asked for about 400 safety improvements in the States and Territories. Today the board reviewed the status of the 261 actions by the States. The Board changed the status of 53 recommendations in the following manner: Sufficient progress was made to close 23 recommendations, and positive action was identified in 19 States. There was a lack of progress on 10 actions that the Board classified as unacceptable.Issues highlighted on the "Most Wanted" list are:
From 1996 through 2005, more than 3,800 child occupants between the ages of 4 and 8 died in traffic crashes. More than 85 percent of those 3,800 children were unrestrained or improperly restrained in an adult seat belt. Children restrained only by seat belts are 3.5 times more likely to suffer abdominal injuries and 4 times more likely to suffer heard injuries than those properly restrained in a booster seat.
In 1996, the Board asked States, the District of Columbia and the Territories (Safety Recommendation H-96-14) to require children up to 8 years old to use child restraint systems and booster seats. Currently, there are 35 States and 3 territories that lack laws requiring that children between the ages of 4 and 8 use booster seats.
Primary enforcement of seat belt laws is the single most important measure that States can take to reduce the death toll from highway crashes. Almost 31,400 passenger vehicle occupants died in automobile crashes in 2005, 55 percent of those killed were unrestrained. Lap/shoulder belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers in cars by 45 percent.
Further, when adults buckle up 86 percent of children are buckled up but when adults do not buckle up, the percentage of restrained children drops to 50. The Board's Recommendation (H-97-2) asks States to enact legislation allowing law enforcement to cite people for not wearing seat belts when no other traffic violation is evident. The recommendation also calls for seat belt violations to include driver's license penalty points and appropriate fines. Twenty-five States have not enacted primary enforcement laws. Only the District of Columbia, New York, and the U.S. Virgin Islands assess penalty points for seat belt violations.
From 1996 through 2005, nearly 64,000 young people aged 15 through 20 died in traffic crashes, more than 122 each week. In 2005 7,460 young drivers were involved in fatal crashes and 3,467 drivers 15 through 20 years old were killed.
The Board's recommendations in this area have focused on improving the factors noted repeatedly in crashes involving young drivers including inexperience, risk taking and teen driver distraction by other teen passengers and by using wireless devices while driving. For example, the risk of a crash involving a young driver increases with each additional teen passenger in the vehicle. Accordingly, the Board asked States (Safety Recommendation H 02-30) to restrict the number of passengers under age 20 in vehicles driven by young drivers with provisional licenses for at least six months.
Twenty-eight States lack a passenger restriction that meets the Board's criteria. The Board also called for adoption of (Safety Recommendation H-02-32) a three-stage graduated licensing system for young drivers. Four States do not have a 3-stage graduated licensing system for young drivers. The Board also asked States (Safety Recommendation H-03-08) to prohibit holders of learner's permit and intermediate licenses from interactive wireless communication devices while driving. Thirty-nine States lack laws that prohibit the use of communication devices by young novice drivers.
In 2005, there were 16,885 alcohol-related traffic crash fatalities. Almost fifty-five percent of those fatalities involved hard core drinking drivers. A hard core drinking driver is a repeat offender with a prior driving-while intoxicated arrest within the past 10 years, or an offender with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent or greater. In 2005, the median blood alcohol concentration for alcohol-involved drivers involved in fatal crashes was 0.16%.
The Board's Recommendation (H-00-26) encourages States to establish a comprehensive program, containing 11 elements, designed to prevent hard core drinkers from driving. Since the Board issued the recommendation in 2000, at least 26 States and the District of Columbia have adopted one or more elements of the model program but only 5 States have developed programs sufficient for the Board to close the recommendation for the State.
Although school bus grade crossing accidents are infrequent, the results are disastrous when they do occur. Passive grade crossings are especially dangerous because there are no lights or audible warning systems to indicate when a train is approaching. Requiring bus drivers to "look, listen, and live" before entering a grade crossing helps ensure the safety of all children on a school bus.
The Board asked States (Safety Recommendation H-01-38) to implement a comprehensive program to increase school bus safety at grade crossings including installing stop signs, enhancing bus driver training, and requiring noise-reducing switches. Six States have installed stop signs at crossings. Thirty-three States have enhanced driver training, and 16 States now require noise reducing switches (to mute the radio, heater and air conditioner) on newly purchased school buses.
Recreational boating as a mode of transportation has a high loss of life, second only to highways. In 2005, the Coast Guard reported that there were approximately 5,000 accidents, with 697 fatalities and 3, 451 injuries. Approximately seventy percent died from drowning. The Coast Guard reports that about 87% of the drowning victims were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs).
In 1993 the Board asked the States (Safety Recommendation M-93-1) to consider mandatory use of PFDs by children, demonstration of operator knowledge of safe boating rules and skills, and operator licensing as methods to reduce the annual number of recreational boating deaths. Four States still do not require PFDs for children. Fifteen States have yet to require either mandatory education or an operator's license for recreational boat operators.
The Board also asked States (Safety Recommendation M-98-101) to require rental businesses to provide safety instruction and training to all persons who operate rented personal watercraft. Thirteen States have yet to require safety instruction at PWC rental operations."Much progress has been made in recent years. But as we've seen today, more still needs to be accomplished to safeguard citizens in a number of our States." Rosenker said. Maps and tables providing State-by-State details for each of the recommendations be found on the Board's website.
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.