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National Transportation Safety Board releases ‘Most Wanted’ list for reducing traffic deaths | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

National Transportation Safety Board releases ‘Most Wanted’ list for reducing traffic deaths

Megan Tomasic
| Monday, February 4, 2019 2:12 p.m

NTSB ‘most wanted’

The National Transportation Safety Board is working to decrease the number of traffic fatalities across the nation by targeting three key factors — speeding, alcohol- and drug-related incidents and distracted driving.

The board announced its “Most Wanted” list Monday, targeting 10 safety areas officials think could be improved upon. The goal is to bring down the number of fatalities on the nation’s roadways, which exceeded 37,000 deaths in 2017, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

“Progress on such unfinished business,” Sumwalt said. “That is why we are here. Today, we are here to share the lessons from far too many transportation incidents and tragedies. Today, we are here to ensure that the action is taken on safety recommendations.”

According to PennDOT’s 2017 study, speeding and alcohol-related crashes accounted for the majority of injuries and deaths in the state. That year, Allegheny County ranked No. 1 with 12,470, or nearly 10 percent, of the crashes on Pennsylvania roads. Westmoreland County saw 3,254 crashes that year, or 2.5 percent of the 128,188 crashes statewide.

Speeding

According to Sumwalt, almost one third of all highway fatalities are speeding related.

Throughout the state, there were over 31,051 speeding related accidents in 2017, with 441 fatalities.

In October 2017, a 17-year-old Ligonier Township high school junior died when he lost control of his car after hitting a deer carcass. Police said Nicholas Richard Neiderhiser’s car glanced off a telephone pole, crossed both lanes of Route 711 and struck a tree head-on.

Police believe speed was also a factor in the crash.

In September 2018, a Washington Township firefighter was killed after an East Huntingdon man allegedly slammed into oncoming traffic. Four others were injured in the crash.

Pennsylvania State Police alleged Andrew Davidovich, 21, was traveling at least 63 mph in a 55 mph zone.

In November, a McKees Rocks woman faced 12 charges including homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter after she allegedly caused a fatal crash on the 10th Street Bypass.

According to police, Desiree Annette Nelson, 40, was driving nearly twice the posted speed limit.

Alcohol, drug-related crashes

Sumwalt said that across the nation more than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes each year.

“That doesn’t even include those injured to drug impairment,” he said. “Seriously? We must do better. We can do better.”

In 2017, Westmoreland County had 12 alcohol-related fatalities and Allegheny County had 22, according to PennDOT. Across the state, there were 293 fatalities related to alcohol and over 10,345 alcohol-related crashes — or an average of 28 per day, according to PennDOT.

In Pennsylvania, a driver with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent is considered to be intoxicated.

On Feb. 1, 2017, a Ruffsdale man was the driver of a vehicle found partially flipped over near Railroad Street in East Huntingdon, police said. John Woodward, 39, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.235 percent after the crash. Two passengers in the car were hospitalized. He was sentenced in January to five years in prison.

In April 2017, a Rostraver man was allegedly driving drunk when he collided with another vehicle on the Arnold City exit ramp on Interstate 70 in Rostraver. John Summers, 47, pleaded guilty in November and will serve six months to five years in jail along with a year on probation.

Several people were also arrested for DUIs between 2017 and 2019, including a former Gateway teacher, a Greensburg woman driving with a learner’s permit and a Hempfield man who was accused of two DUIs in less than an hour.

Distracted driving

Sumwalt identified distracted driving as the top incident on the “Most Wanted” list. He called the use of cellphones and electronics “commonplace” while driving.

In Pennsylvania, over 15,600 crashes attributed to distracted driving, according to PennDOT. Of those, there were 58 fatalities.

Starting in 2017, state police stepped up efforts to crack down on distracted drivers, issuing citations for offenses like texting while driving and driving while wearing headphones. In Pennsylvania, drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, including sending, reading or writing text messages or e-mail.

A Fayette County man was allegedly texting when his car crossed into the oncoming lane of the Liberty Bridge in 2017. Richard Lee Hauschel II, 32, crashed into a family heading home with their newborn son, police said.

Hauschel, of Brownsville, was charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

A tractor-trailer truck was involved in a fatal crash on Route 28 in April 2017. An initial police report said Arther Wells was distracted when he attempted to merge and didn’t see traffic was stopped, causing him to rear-end a stopped car.

In January, Wells, 70, of Mississippi, was charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving and following too closely.

The full “Most Wanted” list with national statistics can be found on the NTSB website. The top areas of focus to improve safety and reduce deaths are:

  • Eliminate distractions
  • End alcohol and other drug impairment
  • Ensure safe shipment of hazardous materials
  • Fully implement positive train control
  • Implement comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes
  • Improve safety management systems for aircraft flight operations
  • Require collision avoidance systems in new vehicles
  • Reduce fatigue-related accidents
  • Screen and treat sleep apnea for rail, highway safety workers
  • Strengthen occupant protection

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, mtomasic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MeganTomasic.


Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, mtomasic@tribweb.com or via Twitter .


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