Volvo Cars of North America, LLC, (VCNA) is placing full-page ads tomorrow in issues of USA Today and The Washington Post that call for distracted driving legislation.
Publicly taking a position on the need for legislation is apparently a first for Volvo, and the company chose to do so as the Department of Transportation’s “Distracted Driving Summit” in Washington, D.C., which opens tomorrow.
It is indicative of the high stakes and high profits that potentially are on the line if the government bans the use of electronic devices in cars, including phones, moving maps, Blackberries and video players, among others.
The advertisements apparently attempt to change the subject from the dangers of any kind of cell phone use while driving to a position that hand-free cell phone use while driving is safe.
Peer reviewed scientific studies say that it is the cognitive engagement while using either a hands-free or a hand-held cell phone that is the dangerous distraction.
The issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the mental distraction caused by the conversation itself. That’s the reason earlier this year the National Safety Council urged a total ban on using cell phones while driving after conducting further studies that confirmed previous research on just how dangerous cell phones are.
NSC said cell phone use while driving contributes to 6% of crashes, or 636,000 wrecks, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year. NSC estimates the annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes at $43 billion.
Simply put cell phone use is as dangerous as drunken driving.
Volvo and Ford Motor Company, along with virtually all other automakers are attempting to preserve hands-free cell phone use, which they enable with optional or standard equipment telematic devices that allow an increasing array of electronics to be used during driving.
Such scientific studies are likely to be contested tomorrow at the Distracted Driving Summit as powerful and wealthy vested interests attempt to protect the increasing sale of electronic devices that are leading to an “epidemic of distracted during,” in the words of Republican Ray LaHood, who heads the Department of Transportation. As DOT head, LaHood also has charge of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is supposed to protect people from unsafe vehicles, driving conditions and practices.