NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, photo courtesy Fastlane blog

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, photo courtesy Fastlane blog

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx writes of the new administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on the Fastlane blog: “It’s difficult to imagine that President Obama could have chosen anyone steeped more deeply in the pursuit of safety than Mark Rosekind.”

Rosekind, a former board member of the National Transportation Safety Board, was sworn in as NHTSA’s administrator earlier this week, Foxx writes.

Foxx writes that Rosekind is “just the Administrator to ensure that our continued emphasis on that top priority translates into safer cars, safer roads, and safer people.” Rosekind shares Foxx’s belief that the U.S. needs to do more to protect drivers and passengers, Foxx writes. The tasks include addressing the process of investigating vehicle defects, ranging from how NHTSA collects and reviews complaints to how it investigates the defects and implements recalls. As administrator, Rosekind will also bolster NHTSA’s “already effective” core safety programs to further decrease the number of deaths and injuries from car accidents, Foxx writes.

Rosekind is also a world-class expert on human fatigue, Foxx writes, having published more than 150 scientific, technical, and industry papers on research about fatigue and transportation. The awards Rosekind has received include NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal, the Mark O. Hatfield Award for Public Policy from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, six other NASA Group/Team Awards, two Flight Safety Foundation honors, and the Presidential Citation for Outstanding Safety Leadership, Foxx writes.

As part of his plans for NHTSA, Rosekind said the agency needs more resources, writes David Shepardson for The Detroit News. The new administrator did not say how many more staffers he needs, Shepardson writes.

Shepardson elaborates:

‘There is no question that this is an agency that is under-resourced,’ said Mark Rosekind…. He said he will use all the tools available to ensure compliance with auto safety mandates, but believes the agency’s staffing needs to ‘go far beyond’ what he thought before his appointment.

Republicans have taken control of Congress and it is not clear how willing they will be to boost the agency’s budget, which has been flat for a decade. Fewer than 50 employees review all auto defect issues — and just nine review the 75,000 complaints that came in last year alone.

Rosekind told automakers that they do not need to worry as long as they are complying with the rules. He called his new job a “two-year sprint” to get as much as possible done before President Obama leaves office, Shepardson reports. “I’ve got a couple years, max,” Rosekind said. He warned automakers that his agency will use “every tool” to get them to remove unsafe vehicles from the roads, calling General Motors’ failure to report ignition switch problems a “game changer.” GM paid a record $35 million fine to NHTSA last year after delaying a recall of 2.6 million vehicles for more than 10 years, Shepardson notes, for a defect linked to 42 deaths and 58 injuries.

NHTSA is considering new software that would help it to “connect the dots” in discovering potential vehicle defects, Rosekind said, as Shepardson writes. Foxx told journalists that he would like to see Rosekind “take the bull by the horns and make sure (NHTSA) is operating on all cylinders,” Shepardson writes.

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