DETROIT – The Senate on Thursday confirmed former California Environmental Protection Commissioner Steven Cliff as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
President Joe Biden’s election to head the agency was confirmed by approval without objection or a formal roll-call vote.
Cliff is taking over the Transportation Safety Administration at a critical time, about a week after she estimated it nearly 43,000 people were killed on US roads last year, the highest number in 16 years.
The 10.5% jump from 2020 numbers was the largest percentage increase since the agency began collecting data on deaths in 1975.
Risky driving behaviors during the pandemic, such as speeding and less frequent use of seat belts, exacerbated the problem as people began venturing more into out-of-state travel and other roads in 2021, analysts said.
Cliff told that Senate Commerce Committee in December that he would work to pass regulations, such as those requiring the use of seat belts, and that he would implement mandates under the new Infrastructure Act to reduce drunk driving.
“I’m committed to reversing this,” Cliff said, referring to the crash trend.
He said the infrastructure bill will help increase NHTSA’s budget by 50%, with the money used to increase staff and improve US data collection to understand where and how crashes happen.
Cliff served as NHTSA Assistant Administrator at a time when the agency was rewriting vehicle fuel economy standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has also ordered automakers to report accidents involving automated driving systems, and it has launched an investigation into Tesla’s partially automated driver assistance system, Autopilot, due to crashes involving parked emergency vehicles.
A message was left Thursday asking for comment from Tesla, which has dissolved its media relations department. Tesla has said in the past that neither its “Full Self-Driving” nor its Autopilot systems are fully autonomous and that drivers must be ready to intervene at any time.
The NHTSA, which sets vehicle safety standards, finds safety deficiencies, manages recalls, and helps develop state fuel economy requirements, has been without a confirmed administrator since Mark Rosekind left in late 2016.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/05/26/senate-confirms-steven-cliff-to-lead-highway-safety-agency/ Senate confirms Steven Cliff as head of the Highway Safety Agency