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.
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.
Board Meeting Presentation slides for more information on the safety items.
Board approved 2021-2022 MWL Report with associated safety recommendations.