By on February 5, 2019


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its “Most Wanted List” of Transportation Safety Improvements it would like to see implemented by 2020, placing the obligatory emphasis on enhanced safety regulations. While it’s not surprising that a safety board would be a stickler on the public’s welfare, the NTSB is pushing for more safety nets in an era where cars are less dangerous than ever. That meant the agency’s recommended occupant protection measures dealt more with refining infrastructure and curtailing undesirable behaviors than modifying automobiles — but there was some of that as well.

According to the NTSB, automakers, motorists, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should be focusing on finding better solutions to curtail distracted driving, operating a vehicle under the influence, and speeding. Then, and only then, can we achieve the NTSB’s dream of death-proof driving. 

“Tens of thousands of people die in transportation accidents and crashes every year — our neighbors, our coworkers, our schoolmates, our family members,” explained the independent agency. “But they don’t have to. Most of these deaths are completely preventable. With each accident, we learn lessons about safety gaps and make recommendations that, if acted upon, could close these gaps.”

All told, the NTSB made almost 270 suggestions this year. For cars, the one of the biggest inclusions involved the nationwide banning of all mobile devices and help from the industry to create a device that would disable cellphones while in motion.

It also requested that national speed limits be kept to a minimum, with a follow-up request that the NHTSA “identify [the] best practices for communicating with law enforcement officers and the public about the effectiveness of data-driven, high-visibility enforcement programs to reduce speeding, and disseminate the best practices to local law enforcement agencies.” There was even talk about developing speed-limiting technologies,(e.g. variable speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation devices) for use heavy vehicles, like trucks and buses.

A curiously strong emphasis was placed on mitigating impaired driving. In addition to calling for alcohol detection systems to be placed in vehicles, it faulted the NHTSA for not supporting these types of programs. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) announced plans to introduce legislation that would mandate a breathalyzer in every new vehicle just last month.

“If we can keep one person from dying on the roads and make people think twice before getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. Even when they’re buzzed and think they are okay. Can’t we say we’ve been successful?” she said on the House floor in January.

However, the NTSB has allies elsewhere. Automotive News said the National Safety Council (NSC) already backs most of its plans by supporting lower alcohol-concentration limits and cellphone bans.

“Our cars are safer and smarter than ever before, yet we continue to lose 100 people each day to preventable crashes. We know the primary causes continue to be speeding, distraction and impairment, and we know more than half of those killed in crashes are unbelted,” the group said in a statement of support for the NTSB recommendations. “We can change national behaviors by doubling down on what works through improved education, legislation and strong enforcement — we just have to make the collective decision to move in that direction.”

The rest of the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations, at least as far as cars were concerned, involved increasing the implementation of collision avoidance systems on new vehicles. It wants advanced driving aids across the board, with many safety features becoming standard. However, it also wants to see the evaluation and testing of these systems become similarly standardized. Most especially, it wants forward-collision avoidance evaluated for their effectiveness. Once that has been accomplished, it intends to push federal regulators to begin mandating those systems on all passenger vehicles — followed by motorcycles.

If you don’t mind picking through the lengthy sections involving air, rail, and marine transport, the NTSB’s complete Most Wanted List can be found here.

[Image: Shutterstock user ddisq]

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23 Comments on “National Transportation Safety Board Makes Biennial Recommendations in ‘Most Wanted List’...”

  • avatar

    Speeding doesn’t cause the issue, it’s a difference in speed. On a 70mph highway, the person going 75 is hardly an issue at all compared to the one entering from the on-ramp at 35mph.

    Beyond that, it’s unrealistic to forcibly shut down mobile devices in a car. Instead, throw the books at people who cause injury if they crash while farting around on their phones with a death penalty.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, that’ll work guaranteed. The death penalty has always deterred murderers. You want to stop distracted drivers? Confiscate their smartphones on the spot if they’re caught using them. The caterwauling would go on for weeks.

    • 0 avatar

      German Autobahns disprove this point decisively.

      • 0 avatar

        Probably, but then again, my understanding is that German traffic laws are quite a bit more stringent than they are here. They also maintain the living hell out of the autobahns. I suspect if we instituted the same standards here, we’d see fewer accidents.

        • 0 avatar

          Not to mention that the standard one has to meet to get a driver’s licence in Germany and many other European countries is much higher than is typical in North America

          • 0 avatar

            Germany ain’t gonna be so marvelous when its enlightened social and infrastructure systems are denuded to pay for all that schaffening Merkel’s been doing.

            Easy to feel smug vis the US when you haven’t yet grown an underclass, and Germany’s will be even less assimilable than ours.

            Glück auf.

          • 0 avatar

            you mean “fog a mirror” isn’t enough? BUT IT’S MAH RIGHT TO DRIVE!

        • 0 avatar

          The two big rules on the Autobahn is keep right except to pass, and (on unrestricted sections) go as fast as you want. Trucks and busses are limited to 62 mph. There are crazy speed differentials there, yet their fatality per mile traveled is close to the same as for Interstates. Truly the worst condition Autobahn I experienced would be, by Colorado standards, not the best, but damn nice.

    • 0 avatar

      This exactly!

      Right around 73 or 74mph is a perfect speed; I do 80 between urban areas if the limit is 70. The differentials come into play when the people who want to follow the sign like a religious icon start clogging the left lane, as well as the idiots who don’t know how to use an acceleration lane to..uhh..ACCELERATE..when entering a highway!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Why not implement a more rigorous standard to get a Licence as many other countries do. Making sure people understand the rules of the road and the physics of the vehicle they are driving would go a long way. And if we are going to do increased enforcement enforce all the rules…like left lane when not passing, running red lights and improper overtaking. Speeding enforcement, by in large is a money grab IMHO…its cheap and easy.

    • 0 avatar

      Driving car is necessity in US while in other countries it is a privilege – you can happily ride public transportation whole your life and never own car. So even stupid people and illegals need to have license in USA.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. My experience with German relatives is that you can get from pretty much anywhere to pretty much anywhere by clean and reliable public transit. You have U-Bahn in the City-S-Bahn outside and suburban, and many small rail and bus lines outside that. You can live quite well without a car, and many German cars are weekend toys-status symbols, not needed for our daily slog. Of course, Germany is a lot smaller than the US-

        Calls for Cameras are 99.9% rent seeking. If cams cost money, you’d not see a single one up.

        • 0 avatar

          Certain folks in the United States see mass transit as a welfare program.

          Then they complain when they get hit by some uninsured guy in a clapped out Kia who’s on his way to his job at Burger King. An incident like that costs $500 in deductible money. Now, how much would you or I pay in tax money for a great transit system? And how much tax savings is there in taking a bunch of cars off the road?

          Pay me now, pay me later.

    • 0 avatar

      I completely agree with that. In the US, people can minimal driving skills, read at a 5th grade level and still obtain a license… or become president

  • avatar

    Joan Claybrook, and proposals from the NTSB do more to wake up the right winger in me than any other public policies.
    Nanny statism can go too far.

  • avatar

    Saving more lives is good, but more tech isn’t the answer to everything. When’s the point of diminishing returns?

    We need better driver education and licensing. As enthusiasts, the proverbial wisdom is that the best performance upgrade for your car is the driver. Likewise, the best safety improvement is the driver.

  • avatar

    I think, NTSB fulfilled their mission. It is time for them to go away. And if they don’t, we should destroy them. What they want to do, again? Put speed limiters and make us drive 50mph? Burn them in hell.

    • 0 avatar

      NTSB is the National Transportation Safety Board and is the lead investigator for rail and air accidents plus other transportation accidents of the sort that get national attention. Get rid of them, no, but what was in the above account sounded like a combination of bromides and wishes. Half the fatalities are unbelted – sorry, we’ve been down the road enforced seat belt wearing and rejected it. As a start, how about some suasion on the media elites to emphasize belt wearing? I don’t watch commercial TV often but I do notice whether its the boob tube or movies, nobody fastens their belts before zooming off, including cop/actors. I heartily endorse conundrum’s suggested confiscation of phones on the spot. It would be better yet if the miscreants were summoned to court and, if found guilty, given a hammer and instructed to smash said device then and there. Wishful thinking, I know. Realistically, lets see what happens in states that have hands free only use allowed.

    • 0 avatar

      The NTSB should go away? Who is gonna investigate things like aircraft incidents? The free market?

  • avatar

    There has been a long running effort to eliminate everything that could possibly cause injury or death no matter how egregious the user’s negligence. Consider the interlock that stops your lawnmower’s blade when you let go. That makes the machine safer only if you are the kind of idiot who sticks his hand underneath while it’s running. I first heard of a proposal to fit all motor vehicles with speed governors, set to the highway speed limit plus 5 mph, nearly sixty years ago. Not long ago, someone in Canada built the prototype of a system that combined GPS and wireless internet to make governors location and time sensitive. It’s not just cars. A city in western Nebraska proposed eliminating certain “excessively dangerous” leisure activities from its employee health care insurance. One was horseback riding. This was in cowboy country where a horse in the back yard is nearly as common as a pickup in the driveway.

    Anytime you hear someone say, “If it saves just one life,” you can be sure that the cost per life saved is exorbitant, it involves a significant restriction on personal freedom, and there are better ways to save as many lives.

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