By HOPE YEN and TOM KRISHER
WASHINGTON (AP) — As pandemic-era traffic fatalities spike, the U.S. agency in charge of auto safety is struggling with a backlog of safety rules ordered by Congress that are years overdue. It’s estimated the unfinished rules would save thousands of lives. An Associated Press review of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s rule-making activities under the last three presidents found at least 13 safety rules past due. The agency has lacked a permanent leader for four years and auto safety groups say President Joe Biden should act on a nomination. They fear the agency’s mission of saving lives and costs from traffic injuries is getting lost.