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Steven Cliff’s nomination to head NHTSA gets nod from Senate committee

Steve Cliff

Washington — Steven Cliff moved a step closer to becoming administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced his nomination by voice vote Feb. 2.

Cliff, deputy administrator of NHTSA since February 2021, was nominated by President Joe Biden on Oct. 19. The nomination now goes before the full Senate. If confirmed, Cliff would be the first permanent head of the agency since Mark Rosekind stepped down in January 2017. Cliff’s previous professional experience includes working as deputy executive officer for the California Air Resources Board and as assistant director for sustainability with the California Department of Transportation.

Speaking during a Dec. 16 confirmation hearing before the committee, Cliff said that, if confirmed, he’ll draw on “decades of experience to help make our transportation system safer for every American.” He also pledged to help reverse “an unprecedented rise in roadway fatalities” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


NHTSA estimates that nearly 32,000 motor vehicle-related deaths occurred during the first nine months of last year – a 12% increase from agency projections for the same period in 2020. It’s also the highest total for the nine-month period since 2006.

“We have much to learn about why some driving behaviors changed during the pandemic, how we can encourage people to make safer choices and how to change a culture that accepts the loss of tens of thousands of people in roadway crashes as inevitable,” Cliff said during the hearing. “We continue to work with safety stakeholders around the country to develop countermeasures, but more work needs to be done.

“A cultural change will take a transformational and collaborative approach to safety. Everyone – including those who design, operate, build and use the road system – shares responsibility for road safety.”

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