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Student journalists expose big holes in transportation safety

Student journalists expose big holes in transportation safety

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Over 2,300 people have been killed in the U.S. in accidents in cars, boats, trains and planes that could have been prevented, the students found.

A team of about a dozen student journalists who spent 10 weeks this summer investigating large parts of America's transportation system -- marine, rail, aviation and auto -- uncovered more than 2,300 deaths that might have been prevented if recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board had been implemented on time.

The students called out several government agencies for delaying the NTSB's recommendations, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Highway Transportation Safety Commission and more.

Sometimes the safety recommendations were opposed by industry, which viewed them as impractical or impossible and dragged them out, and sometimes they were expensive. In some cases, the agencies waited so long that the recommendations became outdated, the students found.

Meanwhile, people died. Among the causes of death were ice that had built up on aircraft wings, runway problems, pilots who were overtired, and aircraft that weren't well maintained or repaired. The students said the NTSB had "essentially given up on 1,952 of its safety recommendations -- one of every six it has made since 1967."

In the last decade, according to students' data, the average time to implement NTSB recommendations has grown by two years -- from 3.4 years to 5.4 years. The Transportation Department is now trying to shorten the delays, a spokesman told the Washington Post, which has been running the students' stories.

You can get the full multimedia package, which includes 23 stories, here. The students were part of the Carnegie-Knight Journalism Initiative and worked with faculty at Arizona State University's School of Journalism. Help was also supplied by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure