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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces More NTSB Recommendations Completed in 2010 Than in Last Five Years

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces More NTSB Recommendations Completed in 2010 Than in Last Five Years

Secretary LaHood affirms safety will remain the DOT’s top priority

Washington, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that, in keeping with his commitment to make safety the top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. DOT has already completed more NTSB safety recommendations in 2010 than in any of the last five years. Over the last eighteen months, the Department has set an aggressive safety agenda, proactively taking on a number of critical safety issues, including distracted driving, pilot fatigue, and transit safety, as well as holding automakers accountable for vehicle defects.

When investigating transportation incidents, the NTSB often issues safety recommendations to the Department of Transportation. In the first nine months of 2010, the Department of Transportation completed 92 recommendations, compared with 60 in 2009, 60 in 2008, 40 in 2007, 50 in 2006, and 70 in 2005. Of the recommendations that remain open, more than 80 percent are either currently being considered by the NTSB or have been deemed acceptable pending final action.

“It's no accident that our roads, rails, and skies are safer than ever for travelers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “From the outset, safety has been my number one priority at the Department of Transportation. And every day, tens of thousands of dedicated safety professionals at DOT are working to make transportation even safer.”

Since President Obama appointed Secretary LaHood to lead the Transportation Department last year, Secretary LaHood has made safety the agency’s top priority across all modes of transportation. Secretary LaHood reorganized the Department so that safety issues would be more effectively addressed across the Department's 10 operating administrations by forming the U.S. Department of Transportation Safety Council, chaired by Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari. [Read more: Newly Formed Safety Council to Take Safety Commitment to Next Level].

In the eighteen months since Secretary LaHood took office, the DOT has undertaken a multitude of new safety initiatives to improve safety issues in all areas of transportation.

Road Safety

The DOT recently announced that 2009 saw the lowest fatality and injury rates ever recorded. Last year, traffic fatalities fell to 33,808 for the year, the lowest number since 1950.  The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even while estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2009 increased by 0.2 percent over 2008 levels.

Secretary LaHood has also launched a high-visibility campaign to end the deadly epidemic of distracted driving, which killed nearly 5,500 people in 2009 and injured almost half a million more. In the last year and a half, Secretary LaHood has convened two national Distracted Driving Summits, enacted new regulations banning commercial truck and bus drivers and rail operators from texting behind the wheel, promoted state anti-distracted driving laws, launched two pilot law enforcement campaigns and participated in numerous public awareness efforts. Thirty states to date have banned texting while driving, including eight with complete handheld bans. President Obama has also issued an Executive Order banning four million federal employees from texting behind the wheel, and the U.S. DOT recently announced that more than 2,000 companies employing 12 million people across America are instituting anti-distracted driving policies in the workplace. [Read more: www.distraction.gov]

Auto Safety

Secretary LaHood has taken swift and significant action to ensure that automakers are held accountable for safety defects in their vehicles. At the urging of DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Toyota Motor Corp recently conducted safety recalls involving more than seven million vehicles due to two vehicle defects that could lead to incidents of unintended acceleration: pedal entrapment and sticking accelerator pedals.  NHTSA also fined Toyota the maximum allowable amount under the law for failing to report the ‘sticky pedal’ defect in a timely manner. NHTSA is continuing to work with NASA and the prestigious National Academy of Sciences to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration in Toyotas and other vehicles.

Aviation

Air travel is safer today than it has ever been, but Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt have worked hard to make it even safer.

After two decades of inaction on pilot fatigue, Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt recently announced a landmark proposal to fight fatigue among commercial pilots by setting new flight time, duty and rest requirements based on fatigue science. Last year, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt cited pilot fatigue as a top priority during the Airline Safety Call to Action following the crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009. Administrator Babbitt launched an aggressive effort to take advantage of the latest research on fatigue to create a new pilot flight, duty and rest proposal.

Operator Fatigue

Last year, the DOT Safety Council identified operator fatigue as one of the Department’s top safety concerns across all modes of transportation.  In addition to the historic pilot fatigue rule announced by Secretary LaHood and FAA Administrator Babbitt earlier this month, other DOT agencies have taken action to fight operator fatigue.

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) has begun to tackle operator fatigue through research, enforcement and new technology. FMCSA has also adopted a specific performance measure in its 2010 Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) to target carriers whose drivers demonstrate high-risk behavior. Earlier this year, FMCSA also issued a final remedial rule, known as EOBR 1, which requires motor carriers found to have an hours-of-service violation rate of 10 percent or more during a compliance review to install electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) on the carrier’s entire fleet.  EOBRs automatically record the number of hours drivers spend operating the vehicle. The rule took effect in April 2010 with a 2-year implementation date. 

The Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) has also taken efforts to make the road safer from fatigued drivers, specifically through Safety Edge technology. The Safety Edge shapes the edge of the pavement to 30 degrees to allow drivers who have strayed from the road—such as fatigued drivers—to re-enter the roadway safely. FHWA is working with States to develop specifications and accelerate the adoption this pavement edge treatment as a standard practice on all new and resurfacing pavement projects.

Transit Safety Oversight Legislation

Following the Washington, DC metro crash that claimed 9 lives and injured scores of other commuters, Secretary LaHood proposed legislation to give the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) at the Department of Transportation safety oversight of transit districts across the country. The Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009 would give FTA the same safety oversight that other federal agencies have and ensure a high and standard level of safety across all rail transit systems. Secretary LaHood has been urging Congress to pass the proposed legislation to ensure that 14 million passengers who use transit to get to work, school and home every day can do so safely.

Monday, September 27, 2010