Speeches and Presentations

Opening Remarks: NHTSA-FAA Safety Forum

Dr. Mark R. Rosekind , NHTSA Administrator

Friday, April 22, 2016 | Washington, D.C.

Mark R. Rosekind, Ph.D.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
Washington, D.C.
Friday, April 22, 2016
As Prepared for Delivery

Good morning. My name is Mark Rosekind, and I am the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We are here today because of three important numbers.

The first is 32,675. That’s the number of people who lost their lives on U.S. roadways in 2014. And the number in 2015 is even higher. That’s the same as a fully-loaded 747 crashing every single week. The people in this room cannot even conceive that we would be OK with something like that happening even once, much less once a week. So the challenge before us is enormous, and we are looking for answers anywhere we can find them.

The second important number is 94. That’s the percentage of vehicle crashes that can be traced back to a human choice or error, like someone drinking and driving, texting, or falling asleep behind the wheel. For all of the attention they get, safety defects in vehicles account for a very small number of the crashes on our road. Let me be clear: We take safety defects seriously. The people in this room with the automotive industry know that our track record on defects investigations and recalls proves this. But there is another reason I bring up the percent figure. It is simply not the case that because most crashes are caused by humans that auto companies don’t play a role in addressing the problem. Indeed, everyone plays a role. And that’s proven, at least in part, by the third number I want to mention.

That is 613,501. That’s the number of lives saved in the last 50 years thanks to technology now required in all U.S. cars. We’re talking about seatbelts, airbags, and more. So we know that even with the vast majority of vehicle crashes caused by humans, manufacturers play a hugely important role in designing vehicles that protect people in a crash, and deploying technologies that can prevent crashes altogether.

So with those numbers in mind, why are we here? We are here because the commercial aviation industry is in an unprecedented era of safety. Between 1998 and 2009, the fatality risk in U.S. commercial air travel fell by 83 percent. And the industry is now working to cut it by 50 percent further from 2010 to 2025. This success didn’t come about by accident. The aviation industry and the FAA have worked hand-in-hand to make a concerted effort to improve safety by building a safety culture where problems are caught and addressed earlier, best practices are shared among the industry, and people are empowered to make the safe choices. This represents a different approach than what people typically think about between a safety regulator and the industry that it regulates. And it’s a model that I’m proud to say we are in the early stages of extending to the work NHTSA and the automobile industry do together.

In January, Secretary Foxx announced our proactive safety principles with the auto industry. This set of principles help set us on a path to building a culture of proactive safety across the industry, and lays out specific work in the areas of data analysis, recall participation rates and cybersecurity. I am pleased that 18 automakers agreed to sign these principles, and I am even more pleased that these principles are yielding immediate results.

Last month, we joined automakers to announce that by 2022, automatic emergency braking will be standard on more than 99 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States. This important safety technology has the potential to prevent thousands of crashes and save so many lives. And because we were able to join with the auto industry to do this in a proactive manner, we are able to accomplish this goal at least three years faster than if we had pursued it only through a regulatory process. I am also pleased that the auto industry is taking action on its own to further build on these principles. Next month, FCA will convene automakers at the inaugural Automotive Safety Recall Best Practices Summit.

Today we are here to listen to our partners in the aviation industry, to hear what has worked for them as they have worked to improve safety, and think about what more we can do in auto and traffic safety. I want to leave you with one more number, which guides our work every day at NHTSA. That number is zero. In my view, that’s the only acceptable goal for us to be thinking about when it comes to roadway fatalities and serious injuries. How are we going to get there? That’s the underlying question for our panelists today, and what I want everyone in this room thinking about.

Administrator Huerta, thank you for hosting us today. FAA, NHTSA and I extend my gratitude to all of our panelists and participants who have taken the time and effort to be here today.