National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC – The National Transportation Safety Board said today that, although there were some modest gains in the past year on several of its Most Wanted safety improvements directed at State governments, much more needs to be accomplished before any of the items can be removed from the list.
At today’s press conference, NTSB Members reviewed the past year’s progress in getting States to enact safety legislation and updated the public on the status of the State portion of the NTSB’s Most Wanted List.
“Well over 90 percent of the nation’s transportation fatalities occur on our roads,” NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said at the press conference. “Enactment of life-saving highway legislation is best done at the State level, and that is why we place so much emphasis on recommendations to State governments.
“We are particularly mindful of these recommendations as we enter the heavy holiday travel season.”
In addition to the highway issues on the State list, recommendations aimed at reducing fatalities on our nation’s recreational waterways are also on the Most Wanted List. The Board kept all existing issue areas on the list.
From 1998 through 2007, more than 3,500 child occupants aged 4 to 8 died in traffic crashes, about half of whom were unrestrained; most of the remaining children were improperly restrained in a belt designed for adults. The Board has recommended that children up to the age of 8 be required to use child restraint systems and booster seats.
Forty three States and the District of Columbia require use of booster seats, although only 21 States and D.C. require them up through the age of 7. In 2008, three States (Massachusetts, Michigan and Utah) enacted child restraint laws to fully implement this recommendation; Maryland upgraded its existing law to fully implement the recommendation. Kentucky and Mississippi enacted child restraint laws covering children up to age 7. The Board is still awaiting action by 29 States and three Territories to fully implement this recommendation.
Of the 29,000 passenger vehicle occupants who died in highway crashes in 2007, 54 percent were unrestrained. Thousands of deaths could have been prevented had everyone buckled their seat belts. The Board believes that primary seat belt laws would not only increase the percentage of occupants who are properly restrained, they would also further protect children. A study shows that when adults were wearing their seat belts, 87 percent of children were also restrained; however, when adults were not wearing seat belts, only 58 percent of children were restrained.
Currently, 26 States, all five Territories, and the District of Columbia have enacted primary enforcement laws, although they apply to all seating positions in only 11 States and D.C. No States enacted primary seat belt laws this year.
Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for 15- through 20-year-olds. An average of 120 youths die in traffic crashes each week, the equivalent of a major airline disaster every 7 days.
The Board’s recommendations in this area have focused on eliminating factors noted repeatedly in crashes involving young drivers – risk taking and distractions. For example, the risk of a crash involving a young driver increases with each additional teen passenger in the vehicle. The Board therefore asked States to restrict for at least 6 months or until issuance of an unrestricted license (whichever is longer) the number of passengers under age 20 in vehicles driven by young drivers with provisional licenses. Twenty four States still need to implement a passenger restriction that satisfies the Board’s recommendations.
The Board has also asked the States to prohibit holders of learner’s permits and intermediate licenses from using interactive wireless communication devices while driving. This term includes all kinds of cell phone use, including text messaging. In 2008, Louisiana enacted such legislation for persons under age 18. Thirty five States and the District of Columbia still need to implement prohibitions that apply both to holders of learner’s permits and to holders of intermediate licenses.
This issue area was called “Promote Youth Highway Safety,” but was renamed to more precisely identify the goal.
Of the 17,036 alcohol-related highway fatalities in 2007, hard core drinking drivers (repeat offender-drinking drivers with a prior DWI arrest within the past 10 years or offenders with a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater) were involved in almost 54 percent of them. The Board has recommended a model program involving 11 elements aimed at keeping hard core drinking drivers off the road. Since the Board issued this recommendation, at least thirty one States and the District of Columbia have adopted one or more elements of the model program. While no State has adopted all 11 elements, 5 States (California, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah and Virginia) have made sufficient progress for the Board to close the recommendation to them. No other States took sufficient action in 2008 to join these States.
Of the 685 persons who died in recreational boating accidents in 2007, 476 drowned; of those, 90 percent were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs). Also, in most States, a person does not need to demonstrate any proficiency before operating a recreational boat. The Board has recommended that States require children to wear PFDs, require a demonstration of operator knowledge of safe boating rules and skills, and require operator licensing.
Since this recommendation was issued in 1993, more than half of the States have enacted legislation or taken other action consistent with the Board’s recommendations. With the exceptions of Virginia and Wisconsin, all States, the District of Columbia and two Territories require mandatory PFD use for children, and 36 States, DC and two Territories require mandatory education. Only Alabama requires an operator license.
One recreational boating recommendation was removed from the Most Wanted List. Most States have adopted the Board’s recommendation that would require rental establishments to provide safety training to those renting personal watercraft (PWC), and ensure that those renters should demonstrate their ability to operate and control PWCs.
Acting Chairman Rosenker noted that five States – Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – have adopted the fewest number of Most Wanted items. In contrast, four States have adopted more elements on the Most Wanted List than any others – New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. However, “New Jersey and Tennessee have not shown the same level of leadership when it comes to implementing elements of the Board’s model program to reduce hard core drinking driving. I challenge the Governors of those States to close this gap in the coming year.”
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NTSB Media Contacts: (202) 314-6100
Primary Seat Belt Laws – Terry Williams
Eliminate Distractions for Young Drivers – Keith Holloway
Improved Child Occupant Protection – Bridget Serchak
Hard Core Drinking Driving – Peter Knudson
Recreational Boating Safety – Keith Holloway
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.