NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


NTSB ACTING CHAIRMAN ADDRESSES THE ISSUE OF DRIVER DISTRACTIONS

October 16, 2008

Washington, D.C. - National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker earlier this week emphasized the importance of recognizing the many hazards that are caused by driver distractions and the need to prevent these types of crashes.

In his speech before the International Symposium on Distracted Driving, in Arlington, VA, Rosenker noted that many of the Safety Board's recommendations stem from crashes involving distracted driving by commercial and school bus drivers carrying passengers and by teen drivers distracted by interactive wireless communications devices (cell phones) and by teen passengers. The Safety Board has investigated six crashes in which distractions played a major role in the cause of the crash. Three of those crashes involved school bus drivers, one a charter bus driver with student passengers, and two involved young and inexperienced drivers.

While the focus of the symposium was on highway safety, Rosenker also took the opportunity to highlight distraction problems in other modes of transportation, most notably in the recent commuter rail collision in California that killed 25 people; the engineer was engaged in text messaging almost up to the moment of the accident. However, Rosenker was quick to note that the vast majority of transportation fatalities occur on the nation's highways.

"There are many ways to measure safety, but no one can argue that the most important is in lives saved," said Rosenker. Over the past four decades, the Safety Board has issued more than 2,100 highway safety recommendations. More than 1, 800 of them have been acted on, "but we have much more to do, and a long way to go."

Acting Chairman Rosenker highlighted two crashes in particular that involved these distractions. On accident involved a young and inexperienced driver, driving a sports utility vehicle. While talking on a hand-held cellular phone and traveling above the speed limit, the vehicle veered off road, climbed a guardrail and landed on top of a minivan.

Another accident involved a bus driver operating a bus that collided with the underside and side of an overpass. Witnesses and the bus driver driving the vehicle reported that the bus driver was talking on a hands-free cellular telephone at the time of the accident. From these two investigations, the Safety Board noted that novice drivers who are learning how to drive and gaining experience in traffic should not be using any wireless device while driving. Further, commercial operators that carry passengers, including school-bus drivers, should be prohibited from using wireless communications devices while driving. Rosenker then turned his focus to the future of preventing crashes and reducing injuries with enhanced vehicle safety technology. "I believe the 21st century is all about technology," said Rosenker. "The most innovative set of technologies that holds the greatest potential for improving motor vehicle safety are the collision warning and adaptive cruise control systems."

Rosenker continued to highlight other safety technologies for crash avoidance in vehicles but also pointed out the importance of the states exercising their responsibilities of the highway safety laws. He urged states to enact graduated driver licensing legislation that grant teens incrementally more driving authority, restrict the number of teen passengers traveling with young novice drivers, and prohibit use of wireless communications devices by young novice drivers.

"We recognize that the driver must take responsibility but it is our job to give drivers the tools they need to make the most of that responsibility, " said Rosenker.

NTSB Media Contact:
Keith Holloway
(202) 314-6100
hollowk@ntsb.gov  

 

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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.