Honorable Deborah Hersman, NTSB Board Member

Keynote Address of Deborah A.P. Hersman
Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board
2014 Most Wanted List Press Conference
Washington, DC - January 16, 2014
"The Safe Path Home"

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)


Good morning! I am Debbie Hersman, and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Today I am accompanied by my colleagues, Vice Chairman Christopher Hart, Member Robert Sumwalt, Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.

We are all excited to be here, and to announce our 2014 Most Wanted List.

Let me thank Bob Skinner and the Transportation Research Board for hosting us. The TRB has been at the forefront of transportation research for decades, so it is fitting for NTSB to announce its 2014 Most Wanted List at their annual meeting.

As lawmakers around the country return to work, we hope they continue to find common ground on Transportation. Our 2014 Most Wanted List highlights the NTSB's priorities, to assure that safety remains of paramount importance in their deliberations.

TRB's theme is "Celebrating Our Legacy, Anticipating Our Future" and there is so much to celebrate: Transportation is safer than ever. But with more than 35,000 fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year, we can, and must, do better.

Expectations for safe transportation are as woven into our lives as the things we do at home each morning: wake up, shower, dress for work, make coffee... So that when we put our children on the school bus -- board a train -- or get in our car to drive to the office -- we take the safety of our trip for granted. But at the NTSB we focus on those rare and devastating occasions when something does go wrong.

Just last month, as people in New York were heading home from their Thanksgiving holiday or downtown for holiday shopping, their Metro North commuter train derailed in the Bronx. Four died and dozens of others suffered injuries, some life-altering. Other accidents on Metro North, the Chicago Transit Authority and San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit underscore the importance of rail mass transit safety.

Passenger rail is safe for the overwhelming majority of riders and rail employees. But our investigations have pointed at ways to make it safer. Positive Train Control might have prevented the Bronx derailment. Beyond this technological advance, we're also promoting operational safety throughout mass transit - so that more people come home safely.

And we know that when an accident occurs, improving crashworthiness standards improves your chances of surviving - of coming home. Improving the structural design of buses increases a passenger's chance of coming home.

In the air, restraining every passenger appropriately and safely - especially our children - improves their chances of coming home.

That's why we have the Most Wanted List: Steps we can take today, so that more people make it home tonight.

And that is always something to celebrate.

Here's a brief video of the 2014 list.

As you saw, the Most Wanted List covers all modes of transportation.

There are four new areas that we are highlighting - helicopter and passenger vessel operations, safety in mass transit, as well as improved occupant protection. And in a fifth, General Aviation Safety, we're sharpening our focus to improve awareness of weather hazards.

We're beginning conversations: As families dream about vacation cruises, we're talking with cruise lines about innovating to make their trips safer. And we're taking action. In April, we'll finalize our report on last year's commuter ferry accident in New York.

Five areas remain from 2013: impaired driving, distraction in transportation, fire and pipeline safety, and positive train control. We are keeping the pressure on and covering new ground:

Soon we'll complete our investigation of last year's Boeing 787 lithium ion battery fire, and apply the lessons we learned during our two day forum and investigative hearing to point the way toward better fire safety in transportation.

Soon, we will issue our final report on the December 2012 pipeline rupture in Sissonville, West Virginia, that destroyed homes and rendered an interstate highway impassable for hours.

And with impaired driving and distraction, we're seeing active legislators and an interest in policy changes that can make a difference in two of our nation's deadliest transportation killers.

In the coming weeks and months, we'll be announcing other initiatives and actions that will directly support the important issues we're highlighting on our Most Wanted List today. Not everybody will like every action we take, and not everybody will agree with what we say.

But they will hear us, and they will understand us. The NTSB speaks for the traveling public, so we are engaging every stakeholder - including the traveling public - in an ever-broadening conversation on these issues.

That means every channel - live-tweeting from events, making accident photos available on Flickr, posting YouTube videos that can be used by advocacy groups, or using our website to keep the public current. And of course, we will continue our excellent relationship with journalists covering transportation.

The Most Wanted List is our roadmap for 2014. If decision makers act, for travelers leaving the house each morning, it will be much more: It will be the safe path home.

Each Board member will spend this year advocating for two safety issues. I will introduce each of the Board members, and serve as moderator:

Vice Chairman Hart will talk about Helicopter Safety and Pipeline Safety

Member Sumwalt will talk about Distraction and Positive Train Control

Member Rosekind will talk about Fire Safety and Impaired Driving

Member Weener will talk about Improving Awareness of Weather Hazards in General Aviation and Passenger Vessel Safety

And I will talk about Mass Transit Safety and Occupant Protection.

Now we would be delighted to take your questions.