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Board Meeting: Highway Accident Report - Multivehicle Work Zone Crash on Interstate 75, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Closing Statement
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center
10/4/2016

In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this report, and to thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process.

One crash at a time, crashes on our roads and highways take more than thirty thousand lives every year. Today we discussed one crash – and issued or reiterated recommendations that, if implemented, might prevent many others.

Large trucks are critical to our nation’s infrastructure. Thanks to them, an uninterrupted flow of goods makes its way to supermarkets, other consumer outlets, and commercial factories.

Yet they are overrepresented in fatal work-zone crashes such as this one. Part of the solution lies in making work-zones safer by involving law-enforcement in pre-construction safety meetings and onward until project completion, and in providing guidance on the use of supplemental traffic control strategies.

However, as long as human beings drive trucks, they must be rested and unimpaired. The companies that hire them must be thorough in considering their driving records, including crash histories – and the states should make it easier, not harder, for prospective employers to discover previous crashes and citations.

Regulators must work tirelessly to determine the drug testing and recognition regimes, as well as background-check procedures, that can help prospective employers to identify unsafe commercial drivers.

The driver in this crash should not have been behind the wheel of a large truck.  But somebody hired this driver, and somebody wrote the rules by which this driver’s history was investigated.

We are very concerned about the actions of this driver. Yet as we conclude today’s deliberations, other drivers who might take similar actions and make similar choices may be applying for employment that would have them driving large tractor trailers at highway speeds on our interstates, just as this driver was doing.

Can we improve employers’ access to the driving histories of those drivers, including crashes, including driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, and speeding?

Yes, if today’s recommendations are acted on favorably.

Will those carriers know about the effectiveness of hair-testing in the process of drug use screening?

Once again, the answer is yes – if today’s recommendations are acted on favorably.

And will work zones be less prone to such accidents in the future? Again, the answer is yes – if today’s recommendations are acted on favorably.

Public safety demands that only well-qualified drivers be entrusted with commercial driving, and that only well-rested and unimpaired drivers share the roads with the driving public. A systemic view of such crashes also demands that we improve preventive measures in work-zones.

The only right number of fatal highway crashes is zero. Today’s recommendations, if put into practice, will help bring us closer to this goal.

We stand adjourned.

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