Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman
Good morning. Welcome to today's press conference. My name is Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. I would like to introduce my fellow Board Members: Vice Chairman Christopher Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt and Member Mark Rosekind.
Today we are announcing changes to the state portion of the NTSB's Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.
It is no coincidence that the Board is convening this briefing, just before Thanksgiving week, to announce our priorities for 2011. During our most prominent holidays, when it seems like everyone is on the road, the loss of lives is at its highest. To make that point more saliently: in 2007, over the Thanksgiving holiday, 457 people lost their lives in just one day. Of those, over half were not wearing safety belts.
In 2009, we had the lowest rate of highway fatalities in 60 years. However, there are still more than 33,000 highway accident deaths per year; that's more than 90 lives every day. Many of these crashes involved: unrestrained or improperly restrained adults and children, motorcyclists not wearing proper helmets, and alcohol-impaired or novice drivers.
Since 1990, the Board has published a Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. Each of you should have a packet that contains this year's Most Wanted List, as well as background information; and for those of you watching via webcast, the list should be posted to our website shortly. As you can see, we are urging states to continue their efforts to help bring down the number of crashes, fatalities and injuries on our roadways.
We have several goals this year: get children and adults properly buckled up, reduce drunk driving, eliminate distractions for young novice drivers, and get motorcyclists to wear proper helmets. We will spend a few minutes discussing each of these areas this morning.
Losing 33,000 lives on our highways each year is indeed tragic. The good news is that we know how to prevent most, if not all, of the fatalities and move towards zero deaths on our highways. We just need a sense of urgency and the political will to make it happen.