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DC Showdown over Distracted Driving Lobbyists

Secretary of Transportation takes on special interests.

by on Jul.07, 2010

"When it comes to safety, this DOT is holding firm," says Ray LaHood.

If you want an example of the unhealthy influence of money in “pay to play” Washington, look no further than the past head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

In a memo obtained by FairWarning and published on its website, Jim Hall, the former NTSB head (and then a hired spokesperson for Ford during the Firestone tire controversy), is being promoted as the lead spokesperson in an effort to stop the growing movement to regulate the devices that cause Distracted Driving.

The fact that such a lobbying proposal exists – it is called Drivers for Responsibility, Innovation and Vehicle Education or DRIVE – is deeply concerning to advocates of getting money out of politics in revolving door Washington where regulators routinely lobby their former agencies. (Click here for the DRIVE proposal) DOT itself is under criticism for hiring former Toyota employees who then allegedly ignored a growing number of unintended acceleration complaints at former employer Toyota.

DD is without question a deadly automotive safety epidemic – causing 5,000 to 6,000 deaths and more than 500,000 injuries annually, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Moreover, Illinois Republican Ray LaHood, the head of the Department of Transportation that NHTSA is part of, is an outspoken critic of the growing use of cell phones and other electronic devices that are the root cause of the problem.

LaHood is pushing hard for regulatory and other solutions at the state level, since NHTSA does not have the statutory authority under its Congressional authorization to regulate DD on a national basis.

Not Distracted on Safety!

In addition, Congress is showing no interest, to put it mildly, on telling voters to stop using cell phones during an election year when all incumbents face ousting from angry voters.

Moreover, the auto companies have their own conflicts of financial interest in this area, as they compete with each other to add more electronic devices to equipment lists. (See BMW to Offer Incoming E-Mail With Voice Output)


BMW to Offer Incoming E-Mail With Voice Output

The use of electronics in autos continues to grow in spite of a distracted driving pandemic that is killing thousands.

by on Jun.24, 2010

Does e-mail belong next to the steering wheel?

BMW says it will be the first automobile manufacturer in the world to have voice-read e-mail messages inside its vehicles.

The latest electronic feature will be introduced starting this fall in Europe and North America on all BMW models with the navigation system.

Owners of a BlackBerry smart phone will be able to access the phone’s e-mail function via the iDrive operating system. A new Bluetooth interface will integrate the BlackBerry into the vehicle. It allows e-mails to be received and displayed on the “Control Display,” and even read aloud by means of an optional voice output feature.

It is just the latest example of the ongoing integration of entertainment, communication and online functions in vehicles as the number of deaths and injuries from DD – distracted driving – increases. In the U.S. alone almost 6,000 people are killed and more than 500,000 injured annually from DD. (See Smart Phones Add to Distracted Driving Epidemic)


The new BMW e-mail access feature ties in directly with the BMW ConnectedDrive office functions introduced at the beginning of this year.These allow not just call and contact lists, but also calendar entries, text messages, tasks and memos to be transferred from compatible smart phones to the vehicle via Bluetooth interface.

The entries can be selected using the Controller of the iDrive operating system and shown on the Control Display. Even a picture file with a contact address on a mobile phone can be shown on the vehicle monitor.