(WJLA) - The National Transportation Safety Board investigated several high profile accidents in 2013 including train derailments and airplane crashes. Looking ahead to 2014, the board has released its Top 10 Most Wanted Safety Improvements to prevent transportation fatalities this year.
While about 90-percent of the transportation fatalities in the U.S. each year happen on the nation's highways and roadways, mass transit is getting more scrutiny by the NTSB – especially on the rails.
Topping its most wanted list of transportation improvements for 2014, board officials are highlighting helicopter safety, passenger vessel safety and safety in mass transit.
“Transportation is safer than ever,” said NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman. “But still, every year, we have more than 35,000 fatalities in transportation in the United States. We can and must do better.”
Unveiling the list at a press conference Thursday, Hersman referred to New York's Metro-North derailment in December that killed four people – a case still under investigation – and Washington's 2009 Red Line crash that killed nine as examples of transit systems with problematic operational practices and "safety cultures."
“[At Metro] we had failures that occurred in the operations control center,” Hersman said. “We had multiple alarms that were going off, hundreds of alarms [indicating safety problems or malfunctions] every day to the point that the people who worked there tuned them out.”
In response, WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel released a statement.
"As NTSB has recognized, Metro has made consistent, steady progress on safety in the more than four years since the Fort Totten incident, including the massive rebuilding program focused on safety projects,” Stessel said.
"Since 2009, Metro has closed 20 of 29 NTSB recommendations. Of the nine open NTSB recommendations, one has been submitted for closure and [the] remaining eight include ongoing projects, such as the replacement of our entire 1000-series fleet with new rail cars,” he said.
At the Takoma Metro Station not far from the crash site, most Red Line riders say – nearly five year later – they feel safe using Metrorail But many said they think about the crash often. To this day, some said they still ride in the middle car.
Raymond McGhee said, “I'm always very conscious when I get on the train – where I'm sitting, where the exits are. I avoid the last car and the first car of the train typically.”