NTSB highlights fatigue as major cause of accidents

| 4/8/2002

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board this week warned that fatigue remains a primary cause of serious accidents in all modes of transportation and emphasized the "collective responsibility" of all vehicle operators to combat fatigue.

NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey's comments were made as part of National Sleep Awareness Week (April 1-7) to raise public awareness that vehicle operators need to be well rested.

"Many times and throughout all modes of transportation, our investigations have found that lost sleep equals lost lives," said Blakey.

Blakey noted that proper sleep is especially critical on the nation's highways. "Each year, highway crashes cause the most transportation-related fatalities," Blakey said. "Of these crashes, recent research shows 100,000 of them involved 'drowsy driving' and resulted in 1,500 fatalities."

A 1999 NTSB study of government efforts to address the fatigue issue found that, despite a number of initiatives, little progress had been made in revising regulations to incorporate the latest research on sleep issues.

"We can do more to stem the fatalities, injuries and property damage that result from operators who should be in bed rather than behind the wheel," Blakey said. She emphasized the agency's recommendations that the U.S. Transportation Department and its modal agencies establish scientifically-based hours-of-service regulations that reasonably limit duty hours and provide adequate time for rest.

"We are a nation on the move 24 hours a day and this increasingly exposes all of us to the dangers of operator fatigue, not only when we travel but also where we live, work and play," said Blakey. "Combating fatigue is not just a problem for government or for the pilot, ship's officer, train engineer or truckdriver, it is the collective responsibility of each and every person who operates a vehicle."