NTSB Chairman Hersman To Lead Safety Council

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Deborah Hersman, the chairman of the nation's transportation accident investigations board, is leaving to become the president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Her nearly 10 years at the National Transportation Safety Board have been "a great ride," but she is moving on to the second "dream job" of her career, Hersman said in a blog posted Tuesday.

The 43-year-old Hersman was on-scene for more than 20 accident investigations, including the crash of an Asiana Airlines jet in San Francisco last July. In her tenure as chairman, she earned a reputation for being willing to back safety measures that were sometimes unpopular with industry and other government agencies.

Under Hersman, the five-member board has called for a ban on all cellphone use while driving, including hands-free calling, and lowering the legal limit for drivers' blood alcohol to combat drunken driving. She is particularly known for championing protections for children, including on planes.

"I look back at the hundreds of investigations and recommendations that have been issued during my tenure at the NTSB, and I have seen the landscape of transportation safety improve before my eyes," Hersman said.

"Today training standards for transportation professionals are more rigorous, federal safety oversight exists for the rail transit industry, work schedules for pilots, locomotive engineers and truck drivers allow for more rest opportunities, the majority of states ban texting behind the wheel ... and all but two states have passed booster seat laws for young children," she said.

Christopher Hart, the board's vice chairman, called Hersman "one of the nation's most visionary advocates for safety."

Hersman has been "absolutely effective and fearless" in her leadership of board, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee. Hersman was a member of the committee's staff before being appointed to the board by former President George W. Bush in 2004. She was appointed chairman by President Barack Obama.

Hersman said she came to Washington two decades ago believing "government can do important work on behalf of the citizens of this great country."

The safety council, a non-profit organization headquartered in suburban Chicago, describes its mission as "to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads."

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