In a speech today at the Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman commended OLI for its leading role in efforts to reduce highway-rail grade crossing accidents by more than 80 percent since its founding in 1972.
“We rely on the great work of organizations like Operation Lifesaver to apply commonsense, life-saving solutions at the grassroots level throughout our country,” said Chairman Hersman, “but for all the remarkable progress that’s been made in [Operation Lifesaver’s] 38-year history, there is much more work to be done.”
Chairman Hersman noted that there were 245 fatalities and 708 injuries at grade crossings in 2009. She went on to identify the three primary factors contributing to virtually all grade crossing accidents: the vehicle, the environment or the driver. She then highlighted specific NTSB accident investigations that identified one of these three elements as being a key part of the probable cause of each crash.
While pointing out a few examples where the vehicle and the environment were causal factors, Chairman Hersman noted that more than 90 percent of all grade crossing accidents are due to the driver. Problems ranging from driver inattention or distraction to unfamiliarity with the crossing can contribute to a driver-caused crash.
“Our challenge going forward is compounded by the emerging safety threats on the road today. Between phone calls, text messages, GPS navigators that can give drivers a false sense of security, and in-car satellite radio and entertainment systems, there is more competition for the driver’s attention than ever before,” remarked Chairman Hersman.
Chairman Hersman concluded her remarks by noting that both the NTSB and OLI must continue to support efforts to reduce distracted driving and improve driver education in order to eliminate grade crossing accidents – and all vehicle accidents – on U.S. roadways.
The entire text of Chairman Hersman’s speech is available on http://www.ntsb.gov/speeches/hersman/daph100830.html.