NTSB Wish List Includes Elimination of Distractions in Transportation

Every year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) releases a “Most Wanted List,” summarizing its top 10 priorities in advocating enhanced safety policies for American infrastructure and transportation systems.

The list for 2013 includes a recommendation to reduce distraction in transportation. The distracting effect of personal electronics and their contribution to vehicular crashes has gotten increased and well-deserved attention in recent years, but public transportation operators are affected by distracting gadgets as well. The NTSB lists the following incidents in its report:

November, 2004: A bus driver in Virginia crashed into a bridge while talking on his cell phone, despite using a hands-free device.
October, 2009: An airliner overflew its destination airport in Minneapolis by more than 100 miles because the pilots were engrossed in their laptop computers.
September, 2008: A train engineer in California texting on his cell phone overlooked warning signals and caused a head-on collision that resulted in 25 deaths.
July, 2010: A tugboat operator on the Delaware River was distracted by his computer and phone while towing a barge and collided with a passenger vessel, resulting in two deaths.

The NTSB suggests that lawmakers ban the nonessential use of distracting electronics by vehicle operators in all modes of transportation. The board also points out that manufacturers can develop technology to disable devices during vehicle operation. Finally, the report recommends that accident investigators at all levels of government develop protocols for determining whether the use of electronics factors into a given accident.

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