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Traffic Safety

New 5-Star Rating System.  In October 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled a new 5-Star Rating System that uses more rigorous tests, better crash data and higher standards to make safety ratings tougher for vehicles and more meaningful for consumers.  These new standards, including side pole crash testing and the use of a female dummy, are being applied to all vehicles produced in 2011 and beyond.

Combating Drunk Driving, Heatstroke and Child Safety Seat Programs.  To better protect drivers and passengers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a new advertising campaign, “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” to help get drunk drivers off the road; worked to prevent heatstroke in hot cars by hosting a series of national and local press events on the issue; and issued new safety guidelines for child seats that keep pace with the latest scientific and medical research and take advantage of new child restraint technologies.

Aviation Safety

NextGen Increases Aviation Safety.   The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to make progress in the roll-out of NextGen, which is transforming our national airspace from a ground-based system to satellite-based navigation and air traffic control.  NextGen will maintain safety and deliver more flights on time and reduce fuel burn.   NextGen technologies and procedures include Automatic Dependence Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) – one of the cornerstones of NextGen that uses satellites to track air traffic more precisely which now covers more than half of the country.  The FAA also issued the final ADS-B rule so aircraft operators know what avionics they need to put in their aircraft in order to meet equipment requirements by 2020.  In 2012, the FAA rolled-out the Metroplex initiative in major cities and regions to increase safety, help airlines improve on-time performance and reduce aircraft emissions.  The Metroplex initiative is based on satellite navigation, called Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), that enables pilots to fly aircraft using satellite coverage or by utilizing the on-board flight management system.  PBN allows shorter, more direct routes that reduce flight time and fuel consumption, and result in fewer carbon emissions.

Preventing Pilot Fatigue.  After over 20 years of trying, the Federal Aviation Administration overhauled outdated flight and duty rules in December 2011 to give commercial passenger pilots the opportunity to get the sleep they need to operate safely.  Incorporating the latest research on alertness, sleep and fatigue, the new rules sets different requirements for pilot flight time, duty period, and rest based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of scheduled flight segments, and the number of time zones they cross.

No-Nonsense Approach to Cockpit Laser Strikes.  In 2011, the number of reports of someone on the ground shining a laser into the cockpit of an airplane overhead continued to increase nationwide from 2,836 in 2010 to 3,592 in 2011. So, to protect passengers, flight crews, and people on the ground, the agency used a long-standing federal statute to impose civil penalties against those who point a laser into an aircraft.  Now, the FAA is pursuing stiffer penalties for individuals who purposefully point laser devices at aircraft, and announced last June it would begin to impose civil penalties against individuals who point a laser device at an aircraft. The maximum penalty for one laser strike is $11,000, and the FAA has proposed civil penalties against individuals for multiple laser incidents, with $30,800 the highest penalty proposed to date.  The FAA has also undertaken serious outreach and made it easier for people to report these crimes.

Transit Safety

Stronger Transit Safety Oversight.  The Obama Administration and Secretary LaHood proposed the Public Transportation Safety Program of 2009 – historic, first-of-its-kind legislation to establish and enforce federal safety standards for rail transit systems.  This became law under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).  Under MAP-21, FTA gained significant new authority to establish and enforce a comprehensive framework to oversee the safety of public transportation throughout the United States for the first time. The authority in the new legislation has the potential to save lives and strengthen oversight of transit safety for millions of riders every day.

Rail Safety

Technology to Prevent Train Accidents. The result of over a decade of work by FRA and its stakeholders, Secretary LaHood announced in January 2010 a final rule requiring the installation of Positive Train Control technology on the nation’s major rail lines and commuter and intercity passenger rail routes.  Positive Train Control sends and receives a continuous stream of data about the location, speed, and direction of trains and will help prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, and accidents caused by human error or misaligned switches.

Motor Carrier Safety

Increased Commitment to Motor Carrier Safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has taken aggressive efforts to strengthen passenger carrier safety and enforcement, significantly increasing the number of bus inspections of the nation's passenger carriers. Over the past seven years, motorcoach inspections have nearly tripled from 12,991 in 2005 to 33,684 in 2012.  In 2012, there were 33,684 motorcoach inspections, resulting in 880 motorcoach drivers and 1,831 motorcoach vehicles being placed out of service.

In just the past two years, FMCSA has placed 255 bus companies out-of-service for safety and compliance violations.    The largest single safety crackdown in FMCSA history took place on May 30, 2012, along Interstate-95 from New York to Florida that shut down 26 bus operations.  The Department has taken steps to put high-risk and chameleon operators out-of-service through new rulemakings and requested statutory authority.  FMCSA unveiled SaferBus, a first-of-its-kind app that gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company's safety record

Pipeline Safety

Pipeline Safety Initiative and Legislation.  Secretary LaHood launched a national Call to Action to improve pipeline safety.  Following accidents in San Bruno, California and Allentown, Pennsylvania, he successfully worked with Congress to strengthen oversight and increase the maximum civil penalties for pipeline violations. In January 2012, these initiatives became law when President Obama signed the Pipeline Safety Act. The Secretary continues to urge pipeline operators to step up and replace or repair aging pipelines, which included the launch of the nation’s first cast iron pipeline inventory that highlights the location of this infrastructure. Under the Secretary’s leadership, PHMSA has held workshops, webinars and issued advisories on safety issues such as valve placement, leak detection, risk assessment and control room management. In addition, DOT and PHMSA hosted the first ever pipeline emergency response forum and issued a safety advisory about pipeline emergency coordination to make sure the needs of emergency responders are represented in national pipeline policy. Pipeline enforcement updates and incident reports are now readily available on, which keeps the public and local and state officials informed about pipeline safety issues in their communities.