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Making the Most Wanted List

​​​​ About the MWL

The NTSB’s Most Wanted List (MWL) highlights transportation safety improvements needed now to prevent accidents, reduce injuries, and save lives. Issued biennially, we use the MWL to focus our advocacy efforts during the current cycle.

The NTSB plays a vital role in advancing transportation safety by investigating and determining the probable cause of accidents and crashes across all modes of transportation and issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar events from happening again. These recommendations, if acted upon, would do the most to improve transportation safety. However, we do not have the authority to require the implementation of our safety recommendations.

At any given time, our agency has more than 1,100 open, unimplemented safety recommendations. So, we needed a way to direct our advocacy resources toward safety recommendations with the greatest potential to make the greatest impact to save lives and improve transportation safety.

That’s where the MWL comes in. It's a list of transportation safety items on which we most want action. These safety items are the solutions, not the problems. We identify the solutions that are ripe for action. We drive this action through our advocacy efforts using a variety of communication strategies.

How It’s Created – Our Methodology

The development of the MWL is a nearly year-long data-driven process that involves careful deliberation using the following criteria.

To be selected for the MWL, a safety item must have at least one open safety recommendation. NTSB staff across our modal offices and the Office of Research and Engineering propose the MWL safety items using Board-approved criteria, as follows:

​Level of Validation

​Each proposed safety item is backed by at least one open safety recommendation and any combination of the following:

  • NTSB products (investigation reports, safety alerts, safety studies, special investigation reports, or reiterated recommendations) that have the same or similar “findings” as they relate to causes, contributing factors, and risk
  • External reports and data that support the safety item

​Level of Action

​Insufficient or inadequate safety action has been taken, such as:

  • Inadequate efforts by affected stakeholders and recommendation recipients to eliminate or reduce the safety deficiency
  • Unsatisfactory responses to NTSB recommendations
  • The length of time since the safety item was first communicated

Level of Risk and

The safety item addresses the following components:

  • Size and scope of the problem/safety issues
  • High likelihood of similar occurrences in future
  • Severity or consequences would be high if a similar occurrence took place (e.g., large proportion of the public would potentially be affected, high potential for fatalities and serious injuries)
  • Potential for involvement of hazardous materials or extensive damage to property or the environment

Potential Benefit from
Focused NTSB Advocacy

​Focusing on the safety item would receive a potential safety benefit if implemented because of either of the following:

  • A high level of urgency exists for action on the item, such as a mandated implementation deadline or an emerging technology issue
  • The NTSB’s unique voice on this item and attention from placement on the MWL has a high potential to propel the implementation of recommendations

The modal offices and RE applied the criteria to each of their potential safety items in a qualitative ranking tool. This tool was intended to give office directors a consistent way to rank their mode’s safety items relative to each other, instead of comparing them across modes. This resulted in a multimodal list.

The NTSB’s five-member Board must vote on and approve the final MWL for each cycle.

In response to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office in March 2020, we updated and strengthened our methodology. We also enhanced the process to allow for greater transparency on how safety items are selected.

The 2021-2023 MWL

On April 6, 2021, the Board approved the following 2021-2022 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

​​​In 2022, the NTSB Board extended the current MWL an additional year and approved transitioning to a 3-year cycle. This will provide more time to accomplish the goals on the MWL and for regulators and others to implement MWL-related recommendations. 

​Safety Improvement ​Lead
​Require and Verify the Effectiveness of Safety Management Systems in all Revenue Passenger-Carrying Aviation Operations Office of Aviation
​Install Crash-Resistant Recorders and Establish Flight Data Monitoring Programs Office of Research and Engineering
​Implement a Comprehensive Strategy to Eliminate Speeding-Related Crashes
​Protect Vulnerable Road Users through a Safe System Approach
​Prevent Alcohol- and Other Drug-Impaired Driving Office of Highway Safety​ ​
​Require Collision-Avoidance and Connected-Vehicle Technologies on all Vehicles
​Eliminate Distracted Driving
Improve Passenger and Fishing Vessel Safety Office of Marine Safety
​Improve Pipeline Leak Detection and Mitigation ​Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations

Improve Rail Worker Safety

Learn More:

Watch the full Board Meeting to hear staff explain why each safety item made the list and see the Board member deliberations and the adoption of the 2021-2023 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

Review the Board Meeting Presentation  slides for more information on the safety items.

Read the Board approved 2021-2022 MWL Report  with associated safety recommendations.