Nominee to NHTSA Chief vows to tighten car seat standards

The nominee of the Biden Administration to become the country’s top safety regulator for autos promised to prioritize replacing the obsolete federal strength standard that was the subject of six years CBS News investigations.

“CBS shined a light on the problem,” Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass. While questioning Steven Cliff (D-Mass.), he said that he was the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s next National Highway Traffic Safety Manager. I believe it is important that we get safety right the first time. “

Cliff said during Thursday’s confirmation hearing, “If confirmed I will prioritise the leadership that you have provided in advance of rulemaking. “

Senator Markey, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal (also a Democrat), co-author legislation mandating NHTSA replace the CBS News regulation that a banquet chair was able to pass. The House effort was led by Kathleen Rice, a Democratic from New York.

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Dr. Steven Cliff, undated photograph provided by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA).


The measure was included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law in November.

” We look forward to prioritizing what’s in the law,” Cliff said before the Senate Commerce Committee.

In a series of stories that began airing in 2015, CBS News revealed that when hit from behind, car front seats may break and their occupants can be propelled – forcefully – into the rear seats where children usually sit.

CBS News identified more than 100 people, mostly children, who were severely injured or killed in alleged seatback failures over the past 30 years.

Safety advocates estimate at least 50 children a year die in such crashes and the number is likely higher: In 2016, then-NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind acknowledged that such crashes were not closely tracked.

Senator Markey said he raised this issue with Cliff before the hearing. Cliff also testified that the conversation was very illuminating. “

To fulfill its congressional mandates, NHTSA will have two years to develop a new vehicle seat strength standard. This standard must be approved by the Secretary of Transportation.

” We need NHTSA’s speedy action to get the regulation passed so that the auto industry makes changes.” Markey stated to CBS News. “I am confident that the NHTSA will pass safety regulations for children riding in backseat cars. “

Kris Van Cleave


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Kris Van Cleave, a congressional correspondent at CBS News, is based in Washington, D.C .

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