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NTSB lists most-wanted safety improvements

The Associated Press

What's on the National Transportation Safety Board's annual list of its 10 most-wanted safety improvements released Wednesday? Recommendations include requiring collision-prevention technologies as standard equipment on all cars and trucks, eliminating the use of cellphones and other distracting technologies by operators of all kinds of transportation, and improving the safety of interstate bus operations.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should require manufacturers to include an array of collision-prevention technologies on all new cars and trucks. That includes lane departure warning, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and electronic stability control.


States and regulators should ban nonessential use of cellphones and other distracting devices by operators of cars, trucks, buses, planes, trains and vessels. Companies should develop and vigorously enforce policies to eliminate distractions to their operators. Device manufacturers should assist by developing technology that disables devices when they're within reach of operators.


A comprehensive solution is required. Technology such as ignition interlocks and continuous alcohol-monitoring devices can prevent impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. Developing new technology that can quickly and effectively test drivers for drugs is critical.


Use technologies that provide pilots with better situational awareness such as cockpit "moving maps" — computer screens that show the movements of other planes and equipment on runways and tarmacs. Runway status lights that show pilots when a runway is available can help, too. Air traffic controllers can provide pilots with more information such as maximum winds that may be encountered on takeoff or landing.


While the number of airline accidents has dropped, the board continues to investigate about 1,500 accidents a year involving mostly private pilots. Efforts should be made to improve pilot knowledge, skills and recurrent flight training. Knowledge tests and flight reviews should test awareness of weather, use of instruments and use of more sophisticated computerized cockpit displays.


Bus companies should do more to make sure their drivers are qualified. Drivers should have regular medical exams by authorized doctors. New bus companies should be required to demonstrate their fitness before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration grants them authority to operate.


The government doesn't provide sufficient inspector guidance for the owners and inspectors of the nation's 600,000 bridges. The Federal Highway Administration should ensure bridge inspector training is comprehensive and consistent across the country so that no issues are overlooked. There should be a national inspection standard that raises the bar for bridge and roadway integrity.


The government should improve its oversight of the pipeline industry. Pipeline operators should be routinely evaluated according to effective performance-based standards. Federal and state oversight agencies should work together to identify deficiencies. There should be drug and alcohol testing of employees when an accident occurs.


Railroads and other train operators should put train control systems in place that slow or stop a train that doesn't obey signaling systems. Congress ordered the systems be put in place by 2015, but 10,000 miles of track were exempted from the mandate.


More can be done to detect or suppress fire across all modes of transportation. Fire detection devices could be installed in engine rooms of ferries and other passenger vessels to provide an early warning to the crew. Intercity buses that monitor the temperatures in the wheel wells could prevent an impending tire fire. Fire suppression systems in the cargo compartments or contains of cargo aircraft can lessen the threat.