National Academies Press: OpenBook

Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 (2018)

Chapter: Safety and Public Health

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Page 13
Suggested Citation:"Safety and Public Health." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Page 13
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Suggested Citation:"Safety and Public Health." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Page 14
Page 15
Suggested Citation:"Safety and Public Health." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Page 15

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e. What are feasible strategies for defending or retreating from the highest-risk areas and avoiding continued investment in the most vulnerable ones? 17. Drones used for transportation—large and small—raise questions about their use by terrorists or for illegal purposes such as smuggling drugs or the delivery of explosive devices to areas with large numbers of people. The aviation and defense sectors are working on drone detection and interdiction technologies. How can security forces most effectively mitigate the security risk from drones? 18. Partially automated and, eventually, fully automated vehicles, vessels, and aircraft and smart infrastructure remain vulnerable to hackers in ways that threaten safety and public confidence. How can and should cybersecurity for these systems be made as robust as possible?56 What capabilities will public agencies need to verify whether cybersecurity is being managed effectively? Cybersecurity concerns for transportation extend far beyond automation. Myriad public and private systems for managing flows of vehicles, accounting records with personal information, and other systems are vulnerable to hacking and ransomware. What are best practices, how can they be shared, and what role should the public sector play in overseeing and enhancing cybersecurity? 19. All transport modes are highly dependent on the Global Positioning System (GPS) for guidance and navigation,57 but there is no national or regional backup should GPS systems fail for a period of time. Systems across all modes that rely on GPS are also vulnerable to “spoofing” that threatens guidance systems. How can these vulnerabilities be overcome or managed effectively? 20. As a result of more severe massive storms and threats of terrorist attacks, large-scale evacuations will become more common. The transportation system, however, is incapable of evacuating entire metropolitan areas on short notice. What strategies are needed for better preparation, response, communication, and sheltering in place on a regional scale? Safety and Public Health The economy and lifestyles of U.S. citizens depend on transportation, but they exact a large toll in the form of deaths and injuries to travelers, suffering by their loved ones, and adverse health effects from transportation operations and emissions. Media depictions of catastrophic airline and train crashes garner the most attention, but 95% of transportation fatalities,58 roughly 35,000 to 40,000 annually, and most transportation emissions harmful to public health, result from routine highway travel that receives little public notice. Despite ongoing improvements to vehicles and infrastructure that have reduced injury risk, many highway casualties nonetheless result from predictable causes that can be reduced by using proven strategies.59 Although highway safety remains a primary safety focus, new risks are emerging from rapidly expanding transportation and recreational applications for drones, and potential terrorist applications of drones as well. Major challenges that need greater insight are how to overcome barriers to the use of the safest road and vehicle designs, adopt proven techniques for reducing alcohol- and drug-impaired operations critical issues in transportation 2019 13 Designing Safety Regulations for High-Hazard Industries

and speeding, and implement effective policies to manage operator fatigue across all transportation modes. Additional important questions include how to reduce distractions to operators and pedestrians and incorporate semiautonomous driving technologies in ways that reduce rather than increase risk. The public health consequences of transportation emissions and noise and the consequences of chronic fatigue in 24-hour operations also demand greater understanding and action. Once a world leader in highway safety, the United States has become a laggard: accordingly, thousands, if not millions, are injured every year in crashes that could have been avoided. Averting these tragedies makes it all the more important to understand the most effective highway safety strategies being employed in other nations, as well as in the safest U.S. jurisdictions, and building popular and political support to implement them.60 21. The public and private sectors have made great strides in protecting vehicle occupants from highway crashes. How can we accelerate the adoption of crash protection measures that have been proven effective, such as air bags, energy-absorbing materials, and safety belt use and helmet laws, as well as the adoption of the safest road designs? What transferable lessons can be learned from those states and localities that have been successful in reducing deaths and injuries through implementing safety countermeasures that work? How can we reverse the sharp decline in highway traffic safety enforcement in some jurisdictions? 22. Many driver warnings and semiautomated features being added to motor vehicles today provide the opportunity to avoid crashes,61 but some may also increase unintended overreliance on technologies.62 How can semiautomated driving, which requires driver vigilance even when relying on the vehicle to steer and brake, be most effectively regulated to address the risks of increased distraction and inattentiveness?63 As ever more technology is available and used by transportation operators, how do we reduce the death and injury resulting from related distractions,64 such as cellphone use by both vehicle operators and pedestrians,65 or from erosion of operator skills as reliance on semiautomation grows? What are the net safety benefits of semiautomated technologies even if they do increase distraction-related crashes? 23. Transportation’s role in public health is widespread, including the effects of emissions,66 noise,67 and urban heat islands;68 the spread of infectious diseases;69 and fatigue, stress, and chronic disease among transportation operators.70 Access to public health facilities, particularly for the disabled, elderly, and economically disadvantaged, continues to be a challenge. How can we develop a deeper appreciation and management of public health outcomes related to transportation and promote healthier approaches? 24. Pollution is a leading cause of disease and premature death, with the majority of pollution-related deaths attributed to local air pollution.71 People living or working near roadway environments or near ports, rail yards, airports, and other transportation facilities appear to be at an increased risk from motor vehicle emissions.72 This increased risk disproportionately affects lower-income groups and minorities. Which mitigation measures can be justified and implemented and which need more research to reduce health risks for those living near major transportation emission sources? trb | transportation research board14

25. Operator fatigue is an ongoing major safety concern and a source of incidents and accidents in all modes of transportation.73 What are the most effective regulatory, management, and technological approaches to detecting and managing fatigue?74 How can proven strategies gain more widespread application? What evidence would inform policy makers about the benefits of additional appropriate requirements for transportation operators to reduce the risk to their workers and the public? 26. New technologies are emerging that could introduce new sources of risk. a. The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), also known as drones, is growing rapidly— the use of recreational UASs is expected to triple by 2021 to as many as 3.5 million units and the use of commercial UASs may grow 10-fold to reach more than 400,000 units.75 Meanwhile, sightings of nearby UASs by commercial pilots and near misses are also growing. How can the risk to the traveling public be most effectively managed as these new technologies proliferate? b. Short-haul, low-altitude passenger aviation trips by battery-powered aircraft may become viable76 and could reduce congestion on urban streets and highways, but they also raise a number of questions about how low- altitude air space would be managed.77 How could such aircraft be regulated? How could airspace be most effectively managed to avoid conflicts between such passenger trips and low-altitude drones? What public-sector infrastructure would be needed and how could it be paid for? c. Large freight drones that operate in the air and on the sea may emerge and lower the costs of freight transportation. For these technologies to advance, however, they would have to be managed to avoid conflicts with other aircraft and vessels. How could aviation drones be safely and efficiently integrated into managed airspace? How could maritime drones, autonomous vessels, and manned vessels coexist and be safely managed in existing traffic lanes? 27. As transportation systems become more complex and confront risks that are hard to estimate, it becomes increasingly difficult for safety regulators to write simple and effective rules to ensure safety. How can regulators and industry be incentivized to strengthen their safety management systems and safety cultures in ways that will encourage firms to achieve safety levels beyond what can be realized through compliance with existing rules and standards?78 28. Marijuana legalization and growing opioid addiction may increase drug-related deaths and injuries in transportation. Early evidence from the first states to legalize marijuana shows an increased number of vehicle crashes compared with states that have not legalized it.79 The effects of marijuana on driving performance are much more difficult to discern, measure, critical issues in transportation 2019 15

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TRB has released Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. In this report, which is updated periodically by the TRB Executive Committee, a series of challenging questions are posed to explore issues and opportunities that may arise 10 to 20 years into the future. These questions, 63 in all, have been organized into 12 topic areas and provide a way to frame future areas of research, policy analysis, and debate.

Critical issues identified in this report deserve attention because of transportation’s central role in serving individuals and society. This document serves to sharpen society's collective understanding of transportation and its ramifications, while informing decisions by individual citizens and officials in both the public and private sectors. The issues have been identified and documented from a U.S. perspective, and are also common across developed nations.

Download the executive overview, Critical Issues in Transportation: Policy Snapshot and or visit www.TRB.org/criticalissues from your mobile device.

On March 5, 2019, TRB and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cohosted a webinar that covered TRB’s Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 report and the 2019-2020 NTSB’s Most Wanted List. Presenters focused on issues of safety and security across all modes of transportation.

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