The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking actions to make sure it is a better watchdog following a series of high-profile recalls that have tarnished the reputation of the auto industry as a whole.
At a press conference Friday in Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released two internal reports from NHTSA that outline the changes adopted in the wake of the General Motors ignition-switch recall and how the agency proposes to strengthen its defect-investigation workforce going forward.
A three-person team of outside experts will act as advisors for the next year as NHTSA implements the changes. They include a new internal Risk Control Innovations Program to tackle safety issues with staff across many departments, including enforcement and vehicle safety.
“NHTSA has identified improvements, some already in progress and some we plan to make, to better investigate, identify and remedy defects that threaten public safety,” Foxx said in a statement in advance of the press conference.
Mark Rosekind, NHTSA administrator, said the agency has an obligation to save lives and prevent injuries and that “must include sober self-examination, and when we find weaknesses, we have to fix them.
“These reports outline how NHTSA is already improving its systems for identifying and addressing vehicle safety defects, and offers options for building the workforce it needs to meet its obligations to the traveling public.”
Foxx said the safety team enlists the help of experienced safety professionals while the Risk Control Innovations Program will break down “stovepipes and reaching into offices from across NHTSA to address safety risks.”
The safety team consists of Joseph Kolly, director of the Office of Research and Engineering at the National Transportation Safety Board; J. Victor Lebacqz, former associate administrator for aeronautics research at NASA; and James Bagian, director of the Center for Healthcare Engineering and Patient Safety at the University of Michigan and a former NASA astronaut and veteran of two space shuttle missions.