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Speeches

Board Meeting: Special Investigation Report: Pedestrian Safety - Opening Statement
Robert L. Sumwalt
NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center
9/25/2018

​Good morning and welcome to the Boardroom of the National Transportation Safety Board.

I am Robert Sumwalt, and I’m honored to serve as the Chairman of the NTSB. Joining us are my colleagues on the Board: Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg, Member Earl Weener, Member Bella Dinh-Zarr, and Member Jennifer Homendy.

Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine Act, to consider a Special Investigation Report on Pedestrian Safety.

In May 2016, the NTSB hosted a forum to discuss pedestrian safety. The forum was chaired by my colleague, Bella Dinh-Zarr, and supported by staff from the NTSB offices of Highway Safety and Research and Engineering. In that forum, we started a public conversation about pedestrian safety. Today, we will continue that conversation by issuing this special investigation report – a report with recommendations designed to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

Each year, more and more of us are getting hit by cars and dying, and it needs to stop.

About 16 pedestrians die every day in crashes, day after day. And it’s been getting steadily worse for the past decade:

In 2007, 11% of those who died on our roads were pedestrians.

By 2016, it was 18% of roadway fatalities were pedestrians. That’s 1 out of 6 people killed on our nation’s roadways were pedestrians. 

Pedestrian fatalities increased by 27% in that period, even as overall highway fatalities decreased 14%.

We’re better protected inside our vehicles, but not outside.

What’s fueling this trend in pedestrian deaths, who’s most at risk, and how do we turn the tide? These are some of the questions this report seeks to answer. As always, we looked at the humans, the machines, and the environment:

First, the human: Whether as drivers or on foot, we humans are far from perfect; we do the wrong thing or just make a mistake. While driving, we may hurry to make it to work, to shopping, or to pick up the kids from soccer. Unfortunately, some walk or drive distracted or impaired.

The machines on our roads protect their occupants, and increasingly enable us to avoid other machines. But are collision avoidance systems and connected vehicle technologies being designed with pedestrians in mind?

And what about vehicle shape, and other passive design concerns—the fault that lies not in ourselves, but in our cars? Some vehicles injure us worse in a crash because of such characteristics. How fully is this fact disclosed to the buyers of new vehicles, and to insurers?

As to the environment, pedestrian crashes are intensely local: where do we cross the street? What signage and signals will the drivers around us see? What do we do if there is no sidewalk?

Circumstances differ not only between categories of roads and between urban and rural settings; They also differ from street to street and from block to block. How can such varied environments all be made more forgiving?

Finally, we will discuss ways to ensure consistent collection and integration of crash data to empower steady progress toward pedestrian safety.

In connection with this study, we investigated 15 separate fatal pedestrian crashes to examine the range of different circumstances they entail.

You can find these 15 cases in the public docket for the report at www.ntsb.gov. The docket also includes a Supplemental Data Analysis of the 10-year trends in pedestrian safety. Elsewhere on the website you’ll find an interactive map with the 15 pedestrian crash cases we investigated.

Today, the NTSB staff will briefly present the most pertinent facts and analysis found in the draft report.

Staff have pursued all avenues in order to propose findings and recommendations to the Board. We on the Board will consider these presentations and then question staff to ensure that the report, as adopted, truly provides the best opportunity to enhance safety.

Now Managing Director Dennis Jones, if you would kindly introduce the staff.