Despite Drop in 2011 Transportation Fatalities, Remains One of Leading Causes of Death

January 28, 2013

autobahn_2.jpgAccident and injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins report that, while transportation fatalities dropped in 2011 by 2%, such accidents remain one of the country's top causes of death. Officials at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believe we can do better.

The NTSB statistics from 2011 reveal that the majority of fatalities involved passengers in vans, light trucks, and cars. Aviation fatalities increased in 2011, from 476 to 494, and waterway fatalities also rose, from 723 to 800. Each year, the NTSB creates a Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvement methods, which represents the agency's top advocacy priorities. The list is intended to illuminate the most critical changes that must be made in order to reduce transportation accidents throughout the country. The NTSB believes that if the public is aware and supportive of such changes, lives will be saved on our road, air, and water ways.

The Most Wanted List contains information from ten key areas, including bus, fire, aviation, and pipeline safety, train control, collision avoidance, and impaired driving. The first area highlights risk factors in airport surface operations, providing investigation reports from runway overruns, runways collisions, and the like. There were about seven serious runway incidents in 2011.

As far as general aviation safety is concerned, the NTSB investigations around 1,500 general aviation accidents per year. The agency reports that aviation fatalities are, time and time again, due to inadequate education and training, and failure to screen for risky behavior. An estimated 400 pilots and passengers are killed each year in general aviation.

Surprisingly, buses are one of the safest modes of transportation, although large occupancies put more people at risk. The NTSB found that most bus accidents are caused by individual drivers or company operations. This includes impaired, distracted, or fatigued drivers, and out-of-service operators who reincarnate under a different name. The most important safety measure is ensuring that bus operators are qualified, receive regular medical examinations, and limit hours of service to prevent fatigue. In 2009, more than 250 people were killed and 20,000 were injured in bus crashes. To put that number in perspective, more than 700 million passengers are transported by bus each year.

The NTSB firmly states that portable electronic devices should have no place in vehicles, planes, trains, and other vessels. It recommends that states, regulators, and companies should set the proper tone by outlawing nonessential device use and vigorously enforcing regulations to eliminate distractions. There is still much research to be done to determine what and how much the brain can handle at a time. One study found that engaging in texting, e-mailing, or internet use increased the chance of an accident by more than 163 times.

In their daily lives, Americans do not often consider the importance of our nation's transportation infrastructure and how well it is inspected, maintained, and preserved. NTSB believes focus should be shifted to runway safety upgrades, pipeline integrity management, and, especially, highway structural integrity. In 2010, more than 4 trillion passenger miles were traveled on America's public roadways, so ensuring the integrity of these roadways is critical.

Some of the most deadly vehicle accidents involve collisions from rear-ending, running off the road, loss of control, speeding, and poorly maintained brakes. Vehicle collision avoidance technologies, such as lane departure and forward collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, and automatic breaking, can prevent these types of accidents. NTSB recommends that such technology should be included as standard in care and commercial motor vehicles.

Impaired driving is also a major contributor to transportation deaths, involving drivers under the influence of alcohol, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs. Reducing impaired driving is a complex issue, and must begin at changing basic human behavior. Currently, deterrent methods are used to prevent repeat behavior, however, more successful programs involve assessment for substance abuse and treatments when needed.

Transportation accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins highlight the NTSB Most Wanted List to increase public awareness of these issues, their possible solutions, and the reality of one of the leading causes of death in our country. If you or someone close to you was seriously injured or killed in a transportation accident, consider seeking legal counsel, as you may be entitled to compensation.