In June 2011 The National Transportation Safety Board issued a revamped version of its annual "Most Wanted List" of transportation concerns that impact the nation. The Most Wanted List is a way that the NTSB fulfills its mission to improve the safety of the county’s transportation systems by offering specific areas on which lawmakers and regulators can focus and the steps they need to take to improve public safety in transit.
The Role of the NTSB
The NTSB is the federal agency responsible for determining the probable cause of motor vehicle accidents and other types of transportation accidents. The agency also promotes transportation safety and assists accident victims and their families.
Congress created the NTSB in 1967 as an independent agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation. The agency was supposed to provide a more efficient means of investigating accidents within aviation, highway, marine, pipeline and railroad industries as well as accidents involving the transportation of hazardous materials, rather than having each industry conduct investigations itself. Additionally, Congress envisioned that a critical part of the new agency’s mission would be to promote safety within the nation’s various transit systems.
In 1974, Congress reaffirmed the NTSB’s safety role by making it independent of the Department of Transportation. Because the DOT has regulatory and operational authority over the nation’s transportation systems, Congress feared that unless the NTSB were completely independent of the DOT, the agency would be hesitant to be critical of DOT policies and procedures that may have contributed to any accidents the NTSB investigated.
Thus, the NTSB has no regulatory authority over, or any direct involvement in, any of the nation’s transit systems. It can therefore take an objective stance in its investigations.
The Most Wanted List
The NTSB has been issuing the Most Wanted List annually since 1990 in an effort to emphasize the NTSB’s priorities and advocate for changes to enhance safety. The most recent list reflects the agency’s attempt at streamlining the list, identifying broad areas of concern rather than issuing specific tasks for the various federal transportation industries, as previous lists in the past had done. The ten areas that the NTSB listed as needing attention are:
• Pilot and air traffic controller professionalism
• Human fatigue in operating transportation systems
• General aviation safety
• Establishing safety management systems
• Runway safety
• Bus occupant safety
• Establishing regulations requiring the use of recording systems to help identify causes of accidents
• Teen driver safety
• Motorcycle safety
• Addressing alcohol impaired driving
On the NTSB website, the agency has a special page for each of the issues it identified as needing action. On each page, the agency offers a summary of the issue and lists specific steps that lawmakers and other safety agencies can take to effect positive change. For example, under the teen driver safety page, the NTSB calls for graduated licensing programs in all states. On the bus occupant safety page, the NTSB advocates federal standards for roof strength, window glazing and occupant protection.
Each page also has hyperlinks to each recommendation letter that the NTSB has issued on the topic after investigating accidents, as well as NTSB reports relating to the topic.
By issuing its new, more streamlined Most Wanted List, the NTSB hopes to further its mission of promoting safety in transportation through education and advocacy. The goal is to raise public awareness of the greatest threats to public safety in transportation systems and offer solutions to the problems.