Obama nominates Mark Rosekind for next NHTSA administrator

Current NTSB Board Member Could Fill Void

Amid two of the greatest safety crises in automotive history, the federal agency charged with protecting American motorists may finally have a new leader.

The White House announced Wednesday that President Obama has nominated Mark Rosekind to become the next administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Rosekind has served the past four years as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent government organization that investigates transportation accidents and makes recommendations to other agencies on how to strengthen safety. His appointment is still subject to Senate approval, but safety advocates believe he'll be an effective new leader for the beleaguered agency.

"I think he understands how to get things done and move things along," Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, tells Autoblog. "Washington is obviously a very polarized political community right now, and I think he'll be the kind of guy who can work with a lot of different organizations and bring them to the table."

"I think he'll be the kind of guy who can work with a lot of different organizations and bring them to the table." – Jonathan Adkins.

NHTSA's top job has sat vacant for 10 months as the agency deals with the ongoing General Motors ignition-switch and Takata airbag defects, responsible for killing dozens of drivers. Examining the agency's inaction in letting the safety defects linger for years will surely be one of Rosekind's first jobs, should he be confirmed.

But his background will also allow him to address a wider array of safety concerns. At the NTSB, he has focused on accident investigations, impaired driving and fatigue issues. His biography on the NTSB website describes him as "one of the world's foremost human fatigue experts." Prior to serving on the NTSB, Rosekind directed the Fatigue Countermeasures Program at NASA and was the chief of the aviation operations branch in flight management and human factors division.

"I've met with him a couple of times on impaired driving, and he's very interested and concerned with drugged driving," Adkins said. "From our perspective, having a NHTSA administrator with a background in behavioral highway safety is very important."

Rosekind would replace David Strickland, who resigned as NHTSA administrator in January only weeks before GM announced its first recall related to the ignition-defect, which at latest count, has killed 33 motorists. David Friedman, NHTSA's deputy administrator, had served as administrator on an interim basis.

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