THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE
Transportation Research Board
Consensus and Advisory Studies Division
Committee to Review Evidentiary Protection for Public Transportation Safety Program Information
Admissibility and Public Availability of Transit Safety Planning Records:
TRB Special Report 326
In 2012, Congress gave the U.S. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) the authority to establish a new comprehensive framework to oversee the safety of the country’s public transit systems. As part of that framework, state and local transit agencies are required to engage in safety planning. In the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, P.L. 114-94
, Congress asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to evaluate and provide recommendations on whether it is in the public interest for transit agencies to be allowed to withhold from civil litigation all records developed in compliance with this new federal safety planning requirement.
This new National Academies’ report considers the arguments favoring and opposing evidentiary protections for safety planning records and the rationale for Congressional decisions to grant such protections in other transportation modes. The report examines factors that Congress must consider when deciding where the public interest balance lies. They include a desire for transit agencies to engage in high-quality safety planning without fear of the planning records being used against them in court and the preservation of a tort system that deters unsafe conditions and allows injured parties to be justly compensated. Recommendations to Congress and FTA are offered with these and other important factors in mind.