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Obama Nominates NTSB Member as NHTSA Administrator

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Mark R. Rosekind. Photo courtesy NTSB

Nearly a year after the resignation of David Strickland as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), President Obama has nominated Mark R. Rosekind to fill the seat. Rosekind, one of five members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), has a background as a specialist in human fatigue, as Matthew L. Wald and Danielle Ivory write for The New York Times.

Since Strickland resigned to join a Washington law firm, David J. Friedman has been serving as deputy administrator of the NHTSA, which has come under fire from Congress and safety advocates for its handling of the Takata exploding airbags problem, Wald and Ivory write. They report that a recent investigation by The New York Times found that in the last 10 years, the NHTSA was not decisive in acting, took a long time to pinpoint problems, and was hesitant to use its complete legal powers against the industry it is charged with regulating. In fact, reports say that Friedman would be testifying on Thursday before the Senate Commerce Committee regarding the recall of 7.8 million Takata airbags by 10 automakers, according to news reports.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is conducting a review of NHTSA “to determine if it has ‘the dial set correctly’ on safety,” The New York Times writes. There is also an internal investigation being made by the DOT’s inspector general, Wald and Ivory add.

David Shepardson writes for The Detroit News that Friedman complimented Rosekind:

‘Administrator-nominee Mark Rosekind is one of the nation’s most respected safety watchdogs across all modes of transportation, and I welcome his keen eye and life-long commitment to safety, and I look forward to working with him.’

It is unusual for a member of the NTSB to be promoted to a higher government post, Wald and Ivory write.

The New York Times writes: “Some observers say board members are prone to make enemies in the transportation field by making safety recommendations that cost manufacturers or operators money.” However, Deborah A. P. Hersman, a former NTSB chairwoman, said that it would not be a good idea to name someone from the auto industry to the NHTSA administrator post, even though that could help the agency discover certain safety problems earlier, Wald and Ivory write. Hersman said it is essential for NHTSA to have an administrator with “a really strong safety background who knows how to advocate for the public and who is a truth-teller.” Dr. Rosekind is such a person, she said.

Shepardson writes about some of Rosekind’s accomplishments:

The NTSB said Rosekind has advanced the agency’s advocacy goals on substance-impaired driving, rail mass transit and fatigue. He pushed states to drop the blood-alcohol level limit of drivers who are considered legally intoxicated from the current 0.08 to 0.05 — though no state has agreed.

If he is confirmed as NHTSA’s administrator, Rosekind will head an organization of hundreds of people, including data analysts, highway and automotive engineers, and those who record customer complaints, The New York Times writes. The challenges facing the agency in the future include addressing automated systems in cars — such as lane departure and rear end collision warnings — and the risks of electronic devices in cars pose for distracting drivers and causing car accidents, Wald and Ivory write.


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