Statement of Ellen Engleman Conners
Member, National Transportation Safety Board
NTSB's "Most Wanted Federal Safety Recommendations" Board Meeting
November 15, 2005
Facts, Science and Data; not Guess, Supposition or Desire: Data from the FAA Concerning Redirection/Diversion to the Highways and Requiring Restraint Systems for Children Under Age 2
This data and two reports from university studies are under review. The studies are, I understand, based in significant part on 9-11 travel impacts.
Anything based on 9-11 data is subject to additional review, as I believe these studies might have highlighted anomalies that are not completely understood.
That being said, our recommendation was narrowly targeted to an FAA rule.
This has not been accomplished.
Traditionally, at this point in time, we would close the recommendation with a designation of "Closed-Unacceptable."
However, the Board is now challenged with a unique circumstance, and a greater responsibility for overall concepts of safety.
Our transportation system is multimodal. We cannot continue to isolate one mode from another. Safety in all modes must be our highest goal.
Aviation, when measured by total miles traveled and number of passengers, is considered the safest mode of travel. This is not disputed. And though improving, with approximately 43,000 fatalities annually, highway travel does not have this same distinguished record.
These facts, combined with a goal of multimodal approach, would give good argument to accept the FAA's position.
We do not want to potentially increase total transportation fatalities by shifting travel from one mode to another. And the number of deaths and injuries for unrestrained children has not been increasing.
That being said, we must look to the higher goal of safety.
We all have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable in our society-children, the infirm, and the elderly-to the highest degree.
So, if we follow tradition, it would be appropriate to vote to remove this recommendation as "Closed-Unacceptable."
But what happens then?
I believe the Board must consider a different avenue.
Just as we allow the recipients of recommendations to respond with an alternative response that may be equally acceptable, perhaps the Board might consider an alternative recommendation.
I think back to the first time this issue was discussed with current Members, and to how Member Hersman eloquently described her self-education as a parent concerning lap children, and how, once knowledgeable, she vowed to never put her children unknowingly at risk again.
I then reflect on Acting Chairman Rosenker's hard-hitting statement in our NTSB press release, that while we are careful to secure coffee pots in an aircraft, we do not secure infants or toddlers.
While I strongly believe in the importance of following Board rules and precedent, I do not want, simply for the sake of Board tradition, to close this recommendation today only to see a child die in an accident or due to turbulence tomorrow and, after it is too late in the lives of yet another family, to then feel compelled to reissue this same recommendation.
As such, I believe the Board must either vote to retain this recommendation on the "Most Wanted List" as originally proposed or close the recommendation to the FAA rulemaking and immediately reissue the recommendation to the airlines to stop accepting lap children on flights, along with a recommendation to the airlines and appropriate aviation associations to implement an aggressive education campaign to parents and all travelers about the dangers of lap children, so they might self-educate as did Member Hersman.
With all due respect to the Board's traditions and guidelines and for the reasons I have outlined, I propose we retain this recommendation to the FAA on our Federal Most Wanted List with a designation of "Open-Unacceptable Response."