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NTSB 2013 Wish List Urges Driving and Infrastructure Safety

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Park Meadows from above

Park Meadows, Colorado, from above.

For the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has placed motor vehicle crash avoidance technology on its annual “Most Wanted” list, as Cheryl Jensen reports on The New York Times blog Wheels. The NTSB announced its 2013 list Wednesday at a Washington, D.C., news conference, saying it would like to see that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration establish performance standards for such technologies, Jensen writes.

The agency said it would like to see the technologies become standard equipment in both passenger and commercial motor vehicles. The list also emphasizes infrastructure safety improvements (which are soon to be taking place in Colorado — see below).

Ashley Halsey III writes for The Washington Post:

In a rare move for an agency better known for investigating crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board warned lawmakers Tuesday not to sacrifice public safety as they seek to cut government spending.

Cutting corners on investment in infrastructure built to last for decades will have long-term consequences, the NTSB said as Congress and the Obama administration ponder ways to tame spending and avoid automatic cuts set to take place next year.

Halsey quotes NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman, who stresses that “safety needs to have a seat at the table.” Hersman has her own wish list for budget negotiators: “As they’re taking on these tough issues, they also need to recognize that there is a safety investment in doing some of these things,” she said, “and it can result in lives saved, injuries prevented and driving accident levels down.”

The NTSB has added infrastructure to its “Most Wanted” list, which traditionally has been focused more narrowly on such issues as teen drivers, motorcycle and bus safety, and airport runway safety, Halsey writes. Hersman has expanded the list to include more general topics, such as the role that fatigue and distraction play in traffic accidents, Halsey notes. Discussing the need to rebuild roads, bridges, pipelines, and the air-travel system, Hersman said: “The thing with safety and infrastructure is that people don’t really think about it having a seat at the table until something catastrophic happens.”

In a related matter, a November 11 editorial in the Longmont, Colorado,, says the Federal Highway Administration will play an active role in improvements to I-25, which the writer compares to a major river providing passage to boats. The Interstate “gives hundreds of thousands of drivers of cars, trucks and recreational vehicles the opportunity to travel north and south along the eastern Front Range corridor,” and the road will likely see much more construction in the coming decades now that the Colorado Department of Transportation has started the design process for improvements between Fort Collins/Wellington and downtown Denver, and on U.S. Highway 85 and 287, the editorial points out.

The editorial says:

Projects of this size require years of planning as well as hundreds of millions of dollars. Although it is not known exactly where all the funding will come from, it is estimated the cost will be $670 million (in 2009 dollars.) The work will not be completed until 2035. At the federal level, the Federal Highway Administration will play an active role. The highway administration on Dec. 29, 2011, signed a record of decision for the North I-25 Environmental Impact Statement. […]

The date for beginning of construction is not known, but updates will be posted on the project’s Web site:

According to an Associated Press article appearing in The Washington Post‘s business section, among the auto safety technologies the NTSB includes on its 2012 wish list are:

  • Ways to ban and/or disable nonessential use of cell phones and other distracting devices by drivers and operators of cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains, and vessels.
  • A comprehensive solution to prevent substance-impaired driving.
  • Better strategies to make sure bus drivers are qualified.
  • Better oversight for safety inspection of the nation’s 600,000 bridges.
  • Systems to slow down or stop all trains that do not obey signals.
  • Better systems to detect or suppress fires across all modes of transportation.


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