Ricardo Martinez Leaves Administrator Post At NHTSA

The Bureau of National Affairs reports today that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator, Dr. Ricardo Martinez, will be stepping down from that post to take a position with a private firm in Atlanta. Martinez was appointed to office on August 29, 1994.

Among motorcyclists, he is best known for his aggressive effort to coerce states to pass mandatory helmet laws. He actively lobbied against repeal of the Section 153 penalties in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Even though restrictions were passed in the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-first Century (TEA-21), under Martinez's leadership the NHTSA continues to ignore congressional intent and lobby state legislatures. Dr. Martinez recently went through a Motorcycle Rider Education course in Maryland as a publicity move to show his "support" for Rider Education.

During his five-year reign, the emergency room physician educated at the University of Louisiana has re-defined the term "vehicle accident" to "vehicle crash". A "crash" in NHTSA's vernacular, is predictable and preventable. An "accident" is not avoidable. Dr. Martinez focused on defining vehicle injuries as a public health issue. It was during Martinez's tenure that the Center for Disease Control attempted to classify motorcycle accidents as a "treatable disease". Martinez's efforts include increased involvement in international crash research. He pushed the NHTSA to the forefront of motor vehicle injury prevention by way of programs and rulemaking that include, but are not limited to child safety seats, airbags, head restraints, child restraints, and the Safe Communities project.

At this time no successor has been named to replace Dr. Martinez. The MRF will be watching to see whom the administration will put in the post that oversees NHTSA. Steve Zimmer, MRF Vice President of Government Relations, said "Hopefully, the next person to lead NHTSA will have the same intention to reduce highway fatalities, including motorcycle fatalities, but will focus on education and training rather than regulating the motoring public into submission." Zimmer went on to say, "The past administration has viewed motor vehicle fatalities as if they were a treatable symptom of a disease rather than focusing on education and inappropriate social attitudes."

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