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NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. Will Leave NHTSA and Return to the Private Sector

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Ricardo Martinez

NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. Will Leave NHTSA and Return to the Private Sector

September 30, 1999

NHTSA 51-99
Thursday, September 30, 1999
Contact: NHTSA, Bill Combs, (202) 366-9550

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater today praised the leadership of Ricardo Martinez, M.D., Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who will leave the Department of Transportation and return to medicine and the private sector.

"Ric Martinez has made a difference," said Slater. "His approach as a physician and a recognized expert on crash injuries has changed NHTSA, and the way industry and the public deal with motor vehicle safety. His focus on the patient -- the customer -- introduced safety as an element of competition in the automobile industry."

Martinez will accept a position as a senior executive at an Atlanta-based Internet health care company.

"I have been honored to serve President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary Slater as we set unprecedented records for saving lives and injuries on our nation's highways," said Martinez. "This administration made safety its top transportation priority and as a result, was able to make significant progress on an issue of concern to every American. I will always treasure this time that I had serving my country and the American public."

During his tenure as Administrator, Dr. Martinez positioned traffic injuries as a public health problem, and markedly expanded and engaged the constituency on traffic safety issues to include business, athletes, education, health care, policymakers, public health officials, law enforcement, civic organizations, the judiciary, the media, and legislators.

Dr. Martinez changed the way that traffic injuries and the agency were perceived by the American public. During numerous appearances in the national media, Dr. Martinez sought to "put a human face" on the tragedies of motor vehicle crashes, and called them "predictable and preventable."

On the vehicle safety side, Dr. Martinez oversaw significant vehicle safety regulations including advanced head injury protection for cars, a universal child restraint system to make child safety seats safer, and under-ride protection and anti-lock brakes for trucks. During his tenure, NHTSA issued the two largest safety recalls in history.

As a trauma care specialist, Dr. Martinez was uniquely qualified to develop and expand the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN), a multi-disciplinary trauma center-based research program that links medical and engineering researchers. Eight CIREN centers are in operation nationwide. He also oversaw the establishment of the National Transportation Biomechanics Research Center (NTBRC) to improve real world understanding of crashes and human tolerances.

Dr. Martinez also helped establish the "Safe Communities" program, now active in more than 730 communities nationwide, an effort that encourages the management of safety problems at the local level. Under Dr. Martinez's tenure, America has increased the use of seat belts while reducing the level of alcohol-related traffic fatalities to an historic low.

Earlier this year Dr. Martinez was honored by the American Medical Association for advancing public health. "The accomplishments of Dr. Martinez serve as a reminder of the sacrifice and service of so many who are committed to advancing the cause of good government, and in particular the cause of public health," said Dr. E. Ratcliffe Anderson, Executive Vice President of the AMA.

Martinez was sworn in as NHTSA's 10th Administrator on August 29, 1994. Prior to joining the department, Martinez was Associate Director of the Center for Injury Control at the Emory University School of Public Health, and Associate Professor of the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Surgery, at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. As a trauma care specialist, Dr. Martinez uniquely understood that one of the easiest and most efficient ways to reduce health care costs is to prevent fatalities and injuries by encouraging safe vehicles and responsible driving.

Martinez, a native of New Orleans, will be returning to Atlanta with his wife Robin, and their daughter Mattie and son Rosser.


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