Obama appoints human fatigue expert to run safety review

Following the recent news that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States had dropped the ball by allowing unsafe vehicles on the roadways of the US (potentially as many as eight million cars with dangerous airbags are now being recalled) the US government announced that it would be investigating the organisation. Now President Obama has appointed the man who’s going to head up this review and he’s an expert on human fatigue and alertness.

Mark Rosekind has now been appointed as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board and will take over from David Friedman, current deputy director of the NHTSA in short order.

“Mark is a leader ready-made for this critical responsibility,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an e-mail (via Bloomberg). “I expect him to hold not only the auto industry accountable, but I also expect him to help us raise the bar on safety ever higher within the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

The reason Mr Rosekind is being given the position however, versus some of his contemporaries, is because of his experience dealing with human fatigue and alertness. Throughout his career he’s studied tiredness at NASA and at his own organisation, Alertness Solutions, which worked with companies on how to alleviate and manage fatigue in the workplace. This gave him a solid grounding in workplace safety and a strong desire to reduce accidents in the private sector.

You have to wonder if this will impact Takata's other safety focused business

You have to wonder if this will impact Takata’s other safety focused business

It’s now hoped that this expertise and experience can be brought to bear to reduce big issues, like this one involving airbags, in the future. It’s also perhaps a less-than-subtle jab from the Obama administration that suggests the NHTSA was sleeping on the job.

“Rosekind is one of the nation’s most respected safety watchdogs across all modes of transportation, and I welcome his keen eye and life-long commitment to safety, and I look forward to working with him,” said David Friedman of his replacement.

The senate is also set to look into how so many potentially fatally dangerous vehicles were allowed to reach the point of sale in the first place. As it stands, as many as eight million are being recalled due to a fault with the driver’s airbag container, which when exposed to high humidity could warp and when triggered, explode, instead of simply allowing the bag to expand. This explosion has been linked with a death and other injuries, where pieces of shrapnel were embedded in the drivers.

In the aftermath of this discovery, airbag maker Takata has promised its own inquest, looking into why there were so many faulty products issued and how it can avoid such a manufacturing error in the future. Similarly many auto-makers are investtigating their own safety check practices and no doubt also considering whether to continue doing business with Takata in the future, since its mistake has cost them all many millions of dollars.

Image source: Gerrit, Ryan Burket

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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