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November 27, 2018 4:45 PM, EST

Deborah Hersman to Leave National Safety Council for Safety Post at Waymo

Deborah Hersman Deborah Hersman (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Deborah Hersman is leaving her post as National Safety Council CEO to become chief safety officer at Waymo, a self-driving technology development company based in Mountain View, Calif.

Hersman, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, will leave NSC on Jan. 11, the organization said in a statement.

At Waymo, Hersman will focus on ensuring the safe operation of hundreds of driverless vehicles that are expected to shuttle passengers, the company said in a statement.

“I’ve dedicated my career to promoting safety in our communities, and I’m joining Waymo because of the potential to make an even greater impact on reducing road injuries and fatalities,” Hersman said in a statement released by Waymo.

NSC Chief Operating Officer Nicholas Smith will serve as interim president and CEO.

“On behalf of the NSC board of directors, congratulations to Debbie on her exciting new role with Waymo,” board Chairman Mark Vergnano said. “Debbie has always been a strong champion for safety, and she is perfectly positioned to lead Waymo through the next phase of their self-driving vehicle program.”

Hersman has been with the council since May 2014 after serving 10 years at NTSB. During her tenure with NSC, the council launched several initiatives focused on eliminating preventable deaths.

Waymo autonomous vehicle

(Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Those included the “Stop Everyday Killers” campaign and “Prescribed to Death” opioid memorial. She also co-founded and assumed management of the Road to Zero Coalition. She launched the “MyCarDoesWhat.org” program to educate the public about vehicle safety technologies, published the first “State of Safety” report to grade states on their safety records and took on fatigue in the workplace as a strategic initiative.

The NSC board has begun a search for a new president and CEO, Vergnano said.

“During the last 4½ years, I’ve had the privilege of leading NSC with the support of an incredible board and talented staff as we focused on eliminating those preventable deaths in our lifetime,” Hersman wrote in a Nov. 27 farewell post on the group’s blog site. “I am incredibly proud of the work we have done together and the role the organization has played in helping people lead safer lives at work, at home and on the road.”

Yet, Hersman noted that fatal vehicle crashes continue to rise.

“Not only have opioid overdoses risen exponentially, workplace fatalities hit an eight-year high in 2017 led by motor vehicle deaths,” she wrote. “Our vehicles are the leading cause of death for young people and kill more than 100 road users in the U.S. every day. That means 100 deaths today, tomorrow and the day after.”