Transportation Safety in Action

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Date:
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Transportation Safety in Action 5 Minutes with Deborah Hersman Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board.

Deborah Hersman Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board

Fatigue is a significant factor in our nation's transportation safety. The National Sleep Foundation asked The Honorable Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), to explain how it helps keep us safer on the roads and in the air.

Ms. Hersman, thanks for taking the time to answer questions for our readers. First, can you explain a little about the NTSB and what it does?

Making our highways, skies, railways and waterways safer is the NTSB’s mandate. We are an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. We determine the probable cause and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. The NTSB also conducts safety studies and forums aimed at making transportation safer.

How does the NTSB protect the public?

The NTSB is the safety conscience and compass of the transportation industry. We have the full attention of industry leaders, other government agencies, and policy makers to whom we articulate needed safety improvements and innovations.

The NTSB is an organization that is uniquely situated to think about transportation safety in the ideal and then point the way toward a safer transportation system. Since the Board’s inception in 1967, we have investigated more that 132,000 aviation accidents and thousands of surface transportation accidents and issued almost 13,000 safety recommendations, about 80 percent of which are in the acceptable status.

The NTSB has taken aggressive action in multiple transportation modes to reduce accidents caused by fatigued operators. Can you tell us what you’ve learned about accidents related to fatigue?

We’ve learned that drowsy driving can be deadly, which is why it has been on our Most Wanted List for many years. Solving the problem will require a multi-pronged approach that involves government, industry, and the public. Government regulators need to establish science-based hours of service limits. Employers need to educate their workforce about fatigue risk factors. They also need to design schedules that provide their