U.S. Unveils Blueprint to Tackle Driver Distraction
LaHood pushes voluntary efforts over new rules; by Christina Rogers, Automotive News
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Thursday the agency isn't looking at new regulations to address distracted driving, but rather is calling on automakers to step up voluntary efforts to combat risks with new technologies and education.
LaHood, who's made distracted driving a top automotive safety priority of the Obama administration, said he's met with the CEOs of numerous automakers and feels confident "they're committed to safety."
He even praised Subaru of America for a TV ad that highlighted the dangers of driver distraction. The commercial featured a father talking to his teenage daughter about the risks of using a cell phone while on the road.
"We're not considering a rule," LaHood said. "We're looking at things that have worked. We think good laws work. We think good enforcement works."
He also urged Congress to enact stricter laws on distracted driving and possibly a nationwide ban on cell phone use, although when pressed he didn't offer specifics, saying only it was his personal preference.
"I don't have a bill to hand to Congress," he added.
LaHood's comments came as his department unveiled a new "blueprint" to end distracted driving and announced $2.4 million in federal funding for California and Delaware to help them step up enforcement.
The funding builds upon the department's previous efforts to reduce driver distraction. Three years ago, LaHood launched a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. He's even gone as far to label it an "epidemic" and says that deaths attributed to driver distraction are "100 percent" preventable.
His efforts have prompted 39 states and the District of Columbia to ban texting while driving and brought awareness to a danger that some auto safety experts say is becoming more acute as in-car and portable technologies advance.
In 2010, distracted driving deaths totaled 3,092, but NHTSA believes the total could be higher because drivers are often unwilling to admit to the behavior and many crashes lack witnesses.
The proliferation of communications technology behind the wheel has often left regulators struggling to keep up.
In December, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, whose board operates independently, called for a ban on all phone use while driving, even with hands-free devices.
"We have got to dispel the myth of multitasking," Hersman said later in February. "We are still learning what the human brain can handle. What is the price of our desire to be mobile and connected at the same time?"
In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed the agency's first-ever set of voluntary guidelines on distracted driving.
The guidelines cover vehicle equipment only--not handheld phones--and recommend that automakers disable certain apps, such as Facebook, Twitter and Internet browsers, unless a car is pulled over.
Voice operation of those features isn't addressed but will be later. For now, NHTSA is still studying hands-free technology and is expected to release an analysis later this year.
"The data is not very strong on hands-free," said Ron Medford, the deputy NHTSA director. He said the agency is now focusing on what it knows is a danger and that's texting or talking on handheld devices while driving.
Major automakers, however, have pushed back, arguing that the feds' guidelines are too restrictive and need to give more leeway to certain features, such as images and moving maps.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 automakers, would like NHTSA to better align its guidelines with the alliance's own recommendations developed in 2002-03.
Responding to the Alliance's comments, LaHood said automakers don't dispute that driver distraction is a serious safety issue and have taken initiatives to address it. He also stressed that the guidelines are voluntary, not mandatory.
"We think voluntary is the better way to go now,' LaHood said. "We want them to step up and take responsibility for saving lives."
POLICE OFFICERS are the BIGGEST offenders, but I'm sure they will be IMMUNE from ANY law that is passed. EVERY time I see a police officer, he/she is talking on their private CELL PHONE and looking at their LAPTOP SREEN while DRIVING.... ALSO, they have to pay attention to their RADIO for comm's from their dispatcher... hey, why not swing in to Mickey D's for a BURGER and a DRINK too? If you're going to pass a law, to keep citizens from talking on a cell phone while driving, make the POLICE stop doing it too... unless, you want the citizens to HATE police more than they ALREADY DO! I'm sick of CORRUPT politicians trying to tell us what we can and cannot do, while making themselves EXEMPT.
The trouble with cell phone use in any vehicle is that it is at least somewhat distracting. Anyone who has talked on one knows this but may not want to admit it.The government that required us to purchase 5mph bumpers, ABS brakes, air bags, seat belts, safety glass, energy absorbing steering columns, catalytic converters, padded dash boards, and considered alcohol breathalyzers and "black boxes" as standard equipment could and should pass a bill to force auto makers to incorporate a cell phone interlock into a vehicle. Not for the protection of the driver but for the protection of everyone on the road. Congress can go along with the NTSB and the DOT and pass really stupid bills but can't seem to come up with one that actually would save innocent lives. All the cell phone conversation in the world is not worth the price of ONE human life.
After all of the near-misses I've had with idiots not paying attention because they're too involved in that ever so important phone call or text message, my sympathy well has run dry. It's not just kids either, I've seen plenty of adults being equally irresponsible. It's time to move past the warnings, slaps on the wrist, and giving in to the pleas of cry babies who think using a cell phone is a right. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way and this is, unfortunately, one of those things.
All modern cell phones have (or could have) the ability to track movement, just make sending & receiving calls deactivated while moving, say over 5 mph. (except maybe for 911 calls)
End of story. No one needs to be that connected. Answer calls and texts when you are not driving.
About 2 more laws, "for your own good", is going to start a revolution.
When it starts, we will go too far.
I NEVER use the phone while I'm driving. If I get a call, I'll do 1 of 3 things... 1) if it's safe to pull over or turn into a parking lot or side street, I will answer - once the car is in "park"; 2) if I have a passenger with me, I might have them answer, to let the caller know that I am driving & will call back at my earliest chance; or 3) let the phone ring & when I can stop safely, I will either listen to the message (if the caller left one) or call the person back. There is NOTHING anyone has to say to me that is so important to risk being in an accident or getting a ticket. I've been driving for 37 years & have only had one (1) fix-it ticket for a headlight being out, & another for accidently parking in a handicap spot at the local college back in the late '70's (the campus police did give me a $15.00 ticket, but it never was reported to the "real" police or DMV).
Both my step-dad & sister drive without their seatbelts on & have numerous tickets for speeding & other infractions. They both talks while driving, but I REFUSE to talk to them if I know they're behind the wheel when they call. I will answer, only to ask them to call me when they get to their destination. I definitely DO NOT want to be the one on the phone with them when they cause (or are involved in) an accident & have to live with that memory for the rest of my life!
I think it's selfish & immature to think that "YOU" are SO important that it's OK to drive recklessly and/or distracted, & run the risk of injuring/killing someone or something (animals, property, etc.). I'm all for ANY laws - or strengthening AND enforcing existing laws - that will make people pay more attention, including making the fines significantly higher & increasing the incarceration time for anyone who violates the laws!
See this link: editorial.autos.msn.com/blogs/autosblog.aspx?feat=06bb72fd-1391-4ac4-820c-14197c50f201
“A Massachusetts teenager who caused a fatal car crash after texting on his phone was sentenced Wednesday to a year in jail, a punishment that has rippled across the nation as states and federal agencies try to combat distracted driving. Aaron Deveau of Haverhill, a suburb north of Boston, crossed into the opposite lane on Feb. 20, 2011, and collided head-on with a car driven by Donald Bowley Jr., 55, of Danville, N.H. Bowley suffered brain injuries and died 18 days later. His girlfriend, Luz Roman, survived. Deveau was 17 at the time, and his sentence was shortened from 2 1/2 years to one because of his prior record and age.”
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