Senate Approves New NHTSA Chief After Year Wait

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The U.S. Senate approved a new administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration following a yearlong wait.

Mark Rosekind, whose nomination to head the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been held up for a year, was approved as administrator late Tuesday by the U.S. Senate.

Rosekind, according to Automotive News, takes over a troubled agency which has been involved with “lapses” in its safety oversight function as record numbers of vehicles have been recalled and it has been dealing with the fallout of Takata’s refusal to expand its airbag recall.

A former NASA official, Rosekind steps in a year after David Strickland, former administrator, resigned. He was a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Rosekind is an expert in human fatigue. As a NASA official, he led a major study into pilot fatigue. On leaving the space agency, he founded a management company specializing in fatigue.

Rosekind’s immediate challenge is the rapidly exploding Takata airbag recall. Airbag inflators manufactured by the safety device make disintegrate on deployment sending shards scything through the vehicle’s passenger compartment with potential lethal results. To date, five deaths and “scores of injuries,” according to the industry trade paper, have been attributed to the defect. NHTSA. So far, 13 million vehicles have been recalled since 2008.

Takata has told the safety agency that it won’t comply with its order to expand the now-regional recall of its airbags. According to the enabling law that created the NHTSA, the agency only has power to order carmakers to recall vehicles. It cannot order suppliers to recall vehicles. The agency is planning to push ahead with its probe even as other carmakers band together to ensure that any Takata airbag parts are up to specification.

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