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Biden submits pick to head National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Ann Carlson has been leading the department since September as its acting administrator.

WASHINGTON (CN) — More than a month after announcing his pick, President Joe Biden has officially nominated Ann Carlson to be administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Since September, Carlson has been acting administrator of the agency, which sets and enforces regulations for vehicles and roadways, issues recalls and provides funding to state highway safety offices. The administrator also oversees fuel economy regulations and leads testing and deployment of advanced vehicle technologies, according to the White House.

If confirmed by the Senate, Carlson would succeed Steven Cliff. Cliff, who faced a seven-month confirmation process, only served about two months in 2022 before departing to lead the California Air Resources Board. Biden announced his intention to nominate Carlson on Feb. 13, but didn’t send the nomination to the Senate until Monday.

In announcing Carlson’s nomination, the White House said Carlson issued a “groundbreaking” order to require timely reporting of safety data on vehicles equipped with automated driving systems and advanced driver assistance systems, initiated requirements for certain automatic emergency braking systems and helped secure a 50% increase in resources under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Before being tapped as acting administrator, Carlson served as NHTSA’s chief counsel. She was previously on the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Carlson graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara and Harvard Law School.

Janice Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said having a permanent administrator is “particularly urgent because our nation is experiencing an auto safety crisis.”

“This vital agency has the crucial responsibility of implementing the many lifesaving auto safety provisions in the historic Infrastructure Law,” she wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to working with Acting Administrator Carlson to ensure the safety of all Americans and vehicles on our nation’s roads.”

Mark Rosekind, who served as administrator in the Obama administration and is now CEO of the California Mobility Center, urged the Senate to “pursue a swift confirmation.”

“Ann Carlson brings tremendous knowledge and experience to NHTSA and has already shown her ability to successfully tackle the hard issues that the Agency faces daily,” Rosekind said in a press release. “The ongoing tragic loss of life on our roadways with the new possibilities created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law create unique opportunities to make truly lasting changes in road safety. A swift confirmation will allow Ann Carlson to pursue actions that will make all of us safer on our roadways.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit representing state and territorial highway safety offices, said Carlson is an “effective and vocal proponent” of traffic safety measures focused on infrastructure improvement, design changes and public input.

“Carlson is a thoughtful, engaged safety leader who is focused on achieving real, systemic change that addresses the root causes of the traffic safety crisis,” the organization said in a press release. “Strong federal leadership is critical as traffic fatalities and dangerous driving remain at unprecedented levels.”

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