WASHINGTON -- Brian O'Neill, a key figure on vehicle safety issues for decades, is retiring.
O'Neill, 65, has been with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a research organization for auto insurers, since 1969. He has been the institute's president for 20 years.
Adrian Lund, 56, the institute's COO, will succeed O'Neill at year end. Lund also will head a companion group, the Highway Loss Data Institute.
"I want to build on the legacy that's been left here by Brian and before him by Bill Haddon," Lund told Automotive News. "It's a strong legacy of focusing on issues that really make a difference."
The Arlington, Va., institute uses scientific data to propose safety-related improvements in vehicles, roadways, driver behavior and laws.
Critics say the group is motivated, especially with its bumper testing, by saving insurance companies money.
O'Neill is probably best known for his adept use of the media to publicize the institute's work, particularly its crash tests. The institute goads automakers into building vehicles that perform better in its tests. The group insists that those vehicles will do better in the real world as well.
O'Neill says automakers have come a long way in his years with the institute.
"I think one of the things that the institute's been able to do is, in effect, help empower the safety guys inside the car companies," he says.
"We've made their jobs perhaps more important than they might have been without the pressure we were bringing to bear."
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]