IHS Global Insight
December 13, 2013
U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) head David Strickland has decided to step down from his post, after four years. His deputy, David Friedman, will serve as acting administrator after Strickland departs, according to agency spokesperson Nathan Naylor, reports Bloomberg News. Strickland's specific departure date has not been confirmed, nor has the specific reason for his decision. Prior to working at the NHTSA, Strickland, who has a Harvard law degree, served as counsel to the Senate committee that oversaw NHTSA.
The NHTSA's responsibilities include setting vehicle safety standards, investigating automotive safety defects, and monitoring vehicle recalls; setting and enforcing regulations on fuel economy; and compiling state traffic fatality data. While some sources have implied the change might be related to a recently opened investigation into Tesla fires, the cause is not confirmed. The NHTSA has also been criticized for failing to implement a rule requiring back-up cameras in all new cars. Strickland's aggressive approach to the industry may or may not be replicated by the new boss, but drastic changes to the administration's operations are not expected.
Among the issues for the incoming new director will be managing the rapid pace of innovation possible in vehicle safety against rising costs and potentially slowing implementation of innovation that has potential to save lives and move the industry forward. As distracted driving continues to be an issue, the next administrator will have to navigate the lack of regulation over the cell phone industry and the phones' increasing in-vehicle use. The Federal Communications Commission would be responsible for cell phone regulations, but at some point a convergent set of rules might be applied with the automotive industry.
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