National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC - National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker today testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on the NTSB's work on highway safety issues.
Rosenker highlighted the Board's overall role in helping to maintain public confidence in the nation's transportation system by conducting by thorough, objective investigations when an accident occurs, and making recommendations to fix the system so similar tragedies will not happen again.
He noted that, in contrast with the other transportation modes, most of the approximately seven million highway accidents each year in the U.S. are investigated at the state and local level.
"Because of the Board's small size," Rosenker said, "our effectiveness depends on our ability to select the most appropriate accidents (for investigation) and issue recommendations that will make a substantial contribution to the safety of the nation's highway system."
Last year, Rosenker said, the Board focused on a range of highway issues, including motorcoach fires, motorcoach maintenance, cell phone use by bus drivers, road median barriers, toll plaza design, collision warning systems for trucks, highway construction oversight, and motorcycle safety.
The Board addressed the motorcoach fire issue following investigation of a 2005 accident near Dallas, Texas, involving a fire aboard a bus carrying elderly passengers away from the predicted path of Hurricane Rita. Twenty-three of the evacuees were unable to escape the fire and died.
As a result of this investigation, Rosenker said, the Board made a number of recommendations to Federal regulators concerning fire protection standards for motorcoach fuel systems, fire detection systems, emergency evacuations, and oversight of the motorcoach industry. .
Rosenker further noted that, in September 2006, the Board held a public forum on motorcycle safety, prompted by data indicating that the increase in fatalities among motorcycle riders far exceeded that of any other form of transportation. In 2005, he said, 4,553 motorcyclists died in crashes. Since 1997, the rate of motorcycle fatalities has increased by more than 25 percent. Rosenker said the goal of the forum was to gather information about ongoing motorcycle safety research and initiatives, as well as safety countermeasures that might reduce the likelihood of motorcycle accidents and fatalities.
Rosenker expressed the hope that "recent developments in technology will help us move beyond crash mitigation and enter a new era where technology will help us prevent accidents from occurring in the first place." He noted that areas where the Board has already made recommendations involving new technologies include:
-- The use of electronic on board recorders to increase the compliance of commercial drivers with the hours- of-service regulations;
-- Collision warning systems for trucks to help prevent rear-end collisions; and,
-- Electronic stability control for passenger vehicles to help drivers maintain control of their cars.
The complete text of Chairman Rosenker's testimony can be found on the NTSB site at www.ntsb.gov
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.