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Obama chooses MADD official to lead safety agency

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 8 2009 3:56 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has chosen a top official with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lead a Transportation agency that oversees safety and fuel efficiency requirements for automakers.

Chuck Hurley was nominated Wednesday to become administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hurley, a longtime safety advocate, has served as MADD's chief executive officer since 2005 and worked for the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

At MADD, Hurley urged states to adopt tougher drunken driving laws and require first-time offenders to use ignition interlock devices on their cars. The devices require drivers to blow into an instrument that measures alcohol and prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver's blood alcohol concentration exceeds a certain level.

MADD, a nonprofit organization based in Irving, Texas, was founded in 1980 and was instrumental in pushing Congress to set aside federal highway funds for anti-drunken driving efforts and to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum drinking age to 21.

The organization has received funding from several auto companies, including General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others. The General Motors Foundation provided MADD and MADD-related programs with $133,000 in grants in 2007, according to financial records filed with the IRS.

Obama worked with Hurley as a state senator in Illinois to strengthen the state's auto safety laws, the White House said.

Vernon Betkey, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said Hurley was a "passionate safety advocate whose career has been dedicated to reducing motor vehicle deaths and injuries."

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