Tech leads to driver distraction

2012-05-22 20:50

Vehicles can now be equipped with wi-fi, Facebook, Twitter and Google. Due to the increase in car technology, critics warn that driving distractions will escalate road deaths.

The Detroit News reports that US National transportation safety board chairman Deborah Hersman advocates a ban on cellphone use even with hands-free.

Hersman said: "If the auto manufacturers focused as much on safety as they do on marketing their products, we would save a lot of lives."


US transportation secretary Ray LaHood will push for guidelines to reduce distractions at the wheel. The guidelines recommend that no task for drivers take longer than two seconds and that cars be parked before users can enter navigation commands or use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

LaHood said: "When you're behind the wheel of a car, anything that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel can be fatal. We don't have to choose between safety and technology but while these devices may offer people new tools and features, automakers have a responsibility to ensure they don't divert a driver's attention from the road."

In 2010, 3092 people (9.4% of road deaths) were killed in crashes related to a distracted driver, the DetNews said.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 24% of crashes are due to cellphone use.

Rob Reynolds, executive director of FocusDriven, an anti-distracted driver group, says when automakers include devices in cars, there's the perception that they're safe to use.

"They only serve to feed an already ravenous appetite for distracted driving," he insisted. "It's like putting a filter on a very large cigarette and giving people the impression that it might make smoking that cigarette safe."


John Ulczycki, group vice-president at the NSC, said: "Now they've got things with internet connectivity that can turn your phone into a wireless router and you can watch videos.

"It's just crazy all the things that they're enabling people to do in a car. It's very concerning."

The Safety Council called for a ban on all phone use, including hands-free, in January 2009, almost three years before Hersman did. The back and forth between the automakers and regulators echoes earlier vehicle safety campaigns for seat belts and air bags.

Henry Jasny, general counsel for advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told the DetNews: "It took a long time to get the political motivation and the manufacturers behind putting seat belts in vehicles."

Have you had a close call while fiddling with your vehicle's media devices? Share your thoughts in our Readers' comments section below.

  • Syd - 2012-05-23 11:36

    Banning even hands-free is a waste of time because it cannot be policed. Hell, even people holding a phone get away with it because it is hard to police. Besides, talking to someone on a phone (hands-free of course) is less distracting than having you mother-in-law in the car!

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