Operating personnel in every major mode of transportation, highway, aviation, railroad, marine and pipeline are required to have skills that allow them to use their equipment safely and effectively. These skills depend upon several human capabilities, such as cognitive attention and decision-making, visual recognition and identification, and manual motor skills for quick and accurate responses.
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When operating transportation equipment, regardless of its size or class, it is important to focus on the task of controlling their vehicles within dynamic environments to ensure that they and the public remain safe. The increase in the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), which includes cell phones, messaging, navigation systems and entertainment devices. There is also the growing development of integrated technologies in vehicles. Thus, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has seen disturbing growth in the number of accidents, some with deadly consequences, which can be attributed to distracted operators.
A 2013 survey conducted by the American Automobile Association's (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety identified a number of disturbing trends, such as nearly 70 percent of drivers reported that they had talked on cell phones while driving in the past 30 days. The survey also found that about 25 percent of drivers admitted to typing text and electronic mail messages while driving and about 35 percent reported reading text or electronic mail messages while driving.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2013 report, drivers engaging in visual-manual tasks, such as dialing or texting, has increased the risk of a crash by three times. In another AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2013 report, researchers found that a driver's level of cognitive distraction is about equal when using either hands-free or hand-held cell phones.
Distraction affects all drivers and operators and is a cultural epidemic that too often has tragic consequences.
To effect and sustain PED-free transportation operations, effective laws and regulations are needed, as well as strong and consistent enforcement and pervasive education. It is also important to build a social infrastructure that dissuades distracted operations at all times. A good place to start is with new and existing drivers who are the agents of change. This change will extend to their families and community support systems in order to reinforce appropriate behaviors.
NTSB investigations and other studies have revealed that banning PEDs alone does not ensure that every operator devotes the appropriate attention, vigilance and discipline necessary for safe operations. Education and company policies reinforce laws and regulations by explaining the dangers of distraction and what companies expect from their employees.
Since 2003, the NTSB has identified the use of a PED as a cause or contributing factor in accidents and incidents across all transportation modes. The NTSB has vigorously advocated for stronger enforcement, education and laws to eliminate distraction in transportation. Moreover, in every new accident investigation, the NTSB closely examines the operating environment to determine what role the use of a PED may have played.
In 2013, the NTSB issued a Safety Alert, Avoid Nonoperational Use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) Before and During Flight. By raising awareness through accident investigations and advocacy, the NTSB seeks to expedite the much-needed cultural shift to PED-free transportation.
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