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GAO discussed the Department of Transportation's (DOT) initiatives for comparing safety across transportation modes, focusing on: (1) some of the measures of safety used to compare the modes; (2) the limitations in making such safety comparisons; and (3) how DOT and each modal administration assess safety. GAO noted that: (1) transportation safety is usually assessed on the basis of the number of fatalities that occur each year; (2) it is important to limit modal comparisons to the instances where the modes are conceivable substitutes for each other; (3) it is unlikely that any one safety measurement can be applied across all transportation modes, since each mode has different thresholds for reporting transportation accidents; (4) DOT lacks data to assess state, local, and private sector investment in transportation safety programs; and (5) the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and modal administrations have made limited progress in developing transportation-related safety indicators for the nation's transportation system.

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