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NHTSA's Runge to join Department of Homeland Security

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Dr. Jeffrey Runge is leaving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to become chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

Runge, 49, is a physician from North Carolina. He will oversee the Department of Homeland Security's response to biological and other kinds of terrorist attacks.

He was appointed by President George W. Bush as the 12th National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator in June 2001.

Early on, Runge focused on the implementation of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act that Congress passed following the Firestone tire recall in 2000.

Also under his leadership, NHTSA says there has been a decrease in highway fatalities and the lowest child fatality numbers since record keeping began.

Runge also led a national campaign to increase the nation’s safety belt use. The result, says NHTSA, "was a seven percentage point increase to a record 80% nationwide use."

He also concentrated on lowering alcohol-related fatal crashes and he directed the first increase in the nation’s fuel economy standards in nearly a decade, and the largest cumulative increase since 1986, the agency reports.

NHTSA says Runge also concentrated on vehicle rollover and enhanced safety in front and side impacts and inter-vehicle compatibility.

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