Safety officials want to see more technology to reduce accidents on U.S. roads, airways and railroads.
In its annual “Most Wanted” list, the National Transportation Safety Board is urging government regulators and the industry to move more quickly to adopt equipment that automatically hits the brakes on cars, trucks and trains, as well as devices that monitor operators with video.
In some cases, the technologies are offered by automakers but come only on more expensive vehicles.
“The difficulty is some of this technology, which is highly effective at reducing rear-end collisions, is not available or is not available as standard equipment,” NTSB board member Earl Weener said Wednesday at a news conference. “Many times you have to buy a high-end luxury package in order to get the safety equipment.”
New technology can be a double-edged sword, NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said. The NTSB also wants drivers, pilots and train engineers to shut off distracting technologies, such as smartphones and other digital displays that have been repeatedly linked to fatal accidents.
The NTSB’s 2016 list included nine areas the safety board believes are a priority to improve transportation safety. They include issues on which the agency has long advocated, such as boosting use of seat belts, decreasing drug and alcohol impairment, and cutting operator fatigue.
In addition, the NTSB is calling for swifter adoption of automated devices that prevent accidents.
“I do see that as a growing trend through all the modes,” Hart said. “Humans on their best days can make mistakes. These technology solutions are safety nets for when humans make mistakes.”
On roadways, the safety board wants automatic braking, lane departure warnings and systems that monitor vehicles in drivers’ blind spots. While these features are offered on some vehicles, they often come only on the costliest.
The NTSB cited a 2011 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that concluded more than 10,000 fatal accidents a year might be prevented or reduced in severity if those devices were in all vehicles.