Image courtesy of NTSB.

Image courtesy of NTSB.

The National Transportation Safety Board this week released its annual list of most-wanted transportation improvements, which included a call to disconnect from deadly distractions, end substance impairment, and require medical fitness for duty. 

The NTSB is a federal agency charged with investigating major accidents in various modes of transportation, including highways. The agency also conducts special studies on transportation safety.

In addressing the threat of alcohol and drug abuse, the NTSB stressed the need for “stronger laws, swifter enforcement, and expanded use of technology to end substance impairment.”

The agency also indicated a need for additional employee education and training about the issue.

“Drivers, transportation operators and enforcement authorities also need good information to make informed decisions about the use of illicit drugs and over-the-counter medications,” the agency noted.

Also prominent were concerns about the use of mobile electronic devices.

“Since 2003, the NTSB has found distraction from portable electronic devices (PEDs) as a cause or contributing factor in 11 accident investigations,” the agency said. “Those crashes resulted in 259 people injured and 50 people killed. The first step toward removing deadly distractions will be to disconnect from non-mission-critical information. All modes of transportation need to rise to today’s distraction challenges.”

The agency also called for a strengthening of commercial trucking safety. “To manage their safety risks, trucking companies must go beyond securing regulatory compliance from all their employees and proactively identify operational hazards and potential solutions,” the NTSC said.

In response to the agency’s list, the National Safety Council praised the board’s decision to highlight such threats as distracted driving and prescription painkiller use.

“Our desire to be constantly connected, even while behind the wheel, results in far too many deadly crashes, while the proliferation and misuse of prescription painkillers results in 46 overdose deaths per day,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of NSC. “The council thanks NTSB for keeping these important issues on its Most Wanted List, because continued attention and education are key ingredients of culture change.”