NHTSA Leadership

Acting Chief Counsel: Stephen P. Wood

As acting chief counsel, Wood oversees the provision of all legal services and advice for the full array of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) vehicle safety and highway safety programs.

Domestically, Wood serves as assistant chief counsel, directing the drafting of rulemaking notices and establishing, amending, or rescinding U.S. vehicle standards for safety and fuel economy. He also leads efforts to maximize vehicles’ defensibility and enforceability.  He continues to play a key role, as he has done since the 1970s, in analyzing and providing agency views on legislation affecting NHTSA’s vehicle regulatory authority. Current priorities include policy documentation relating to innovation, regulatory reform, and deregulation, as well as automated vehicle safety technologies, cybersecurity and privacy. Wood and others discussed the adaptation of NHTSA’s regulatory framework to address the increasingly rapid introduction and evolution of software-controlled vehicle safety technologies in a law review article entitled, “The Potential Regulatory Challenges of Increasingly Autonomous Motor Vehicles.”  

Internationally, Wood was the lead Department of Transportation (DOT) attorney in the auto portions of the recent United States-European Union (EU) trade negotiations. Previously, he was the primary USG lawyer involved in drafting the 2002 United States-EU Guidelines for Regulatory Cooperation and Transparency in the analysis and establishment of standards for all manufactured products and the 1998 United Nations/Economic Commission for Europe agreement for global regulations for motor vehicles. Wood was the DOT representative on the U.S. team in Geneva that defended the U.S. fuel economy program against EU claims that it discriminatorily impacted European vehicle manufacturers (better known as the CAFE case).  

Wood is the recipient of various Secretary’s Awards, the Senior Executive Service Meritorious Presidential Rank Award, the Federal Bar Association’s Transportation Lawyer of the Year Award, and a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency award for the CAFE case. Wood has a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a J.D. from Columbia University.