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Senate Kicks Distracted Driving Back to the States

Republicans and Democrats bow to industry over public safety.

by on Jun.10, 2010

Too many voters are using cell phones or other electronic tools for politicians to ban their use.

In 2008, almost 6,000 people died in crashes that involved distracted driving.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has approved legislation (S. 1938), to offer “incentive grants” to states that enact laws to combat distracted driving.

The problem is that the bill does nothing to stop the epidemic of distracted driving deaths on U.S. roads. Too many voters are using cell phones and other electronic devices for politicians to ban their use.

The bill sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) imposes no new mandates. It also would be funded through existing programs, reflecting awareness in Washington of growing public disapproval of runaway deficits during an election year, which will see one third of the Senate facing angry voters.

In 2008, almost 6,000 people died in crashes that involved distracted driving, or DD, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

NHTSA defines distracted driving as anything “that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the steering wheel, or interrupts your concentration while driving.” DD now accounts for 16% of all traffic fatalities. In addition, 515,000 individuals were injured – 22% of total injuries – in crashes involving distracted driving in 2008.  (more…)

NSC Says All Driving Cell Phone Use is Dangerous

New white paper cites more than 30 scientific studies.

by on Mar.29, 2010

There's good reason the National Safety Council wants a ban on driving and cell phone use.

The National Safety Council released a white paper today describing the risks of using a cell phone while driving.

Titled “Understanding the distracted brain: Why driving while using hands-free cell phones is risky behavior,” it talks about the dangers of cell phones and hands-free devices, and the growing safety problems they pose. At any time, 11% percent of all drivers are using cell phones, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has so far done little about the growing safety problem.

NSC estimates more than one out of every four motor vehicle crashes involves cell phone use at the time of the crash. Each year, this distracted driving problem results in about 1.6 million crashes, hundreds of thousands of injuries, and thousands of deaths, according to the NSC.

The white paper includes references to more than 30 scientific studies and reports, describing how using a cell phone – hands-free or hand-held – requires the brain to multitask, a process it cannot do safely while driving. Using cell phones while driving not only impairs driving performance, but it also weakens the brain’s ability to capture crucial driving cues.

Among other things, the paper describes how drivers who use cell phones have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” up to 50% of the information in their driving environment. A form of “inattention blindness” occurs, which results in drivers having difficulty monitoring their surroundings, seeking and identifying potential hazards, and responding to unexpected situations.

“Cell phone use while driving has become a serious public health threat,” says Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO.    (more…)

NHTSA Opens Distracted Driving Web Site

Will common sense prevail, eventually, against profits?

by on Dec.29, 2009

http://www.distraction.gov/

Electronics and car makers resist fixing a clear safety issue, putting profits ahead of people.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started a new website for anyone who wants to learn more about what the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, calls the  “deadly practice.”

The site has news, statistics, the latest research, a summary of state and local laws, and answers to frequently asked questions.

LaHood says his favorite part of the site is the public service television ad in the upper right corner. This 30-second spot–”Calling Plan”–airs nationally this week and makes its point in the clearest possible terms: driving without distraction should be common sense.

Money versus sense

Well, there’s common sense. And there’s money. Electronics, cellphone suppliers and automakers are resisting fixing what is a clear-cut safety issue, putting profits ahead of people, while NHTSA undertakes symbolic actions that do not effectively deal with the growing problem.

Safety!

In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died on American roadways in crashes that involved distracted driving, according to NHTSA. Distracted driving involves anything that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds, takes your hands off the steering wheel, or interrupts your concentration while driving.

(more…)

DOT Secretary Opens Distracted Driving Summit

Hand-Held Device Use Increasing Among All Drivers.

by on Sep.30, 2009

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Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today challenged more than 250 safety experts, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public to help put an end to distracted driving.

“Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road – even for just a few seconds – they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” said Secretary LaHood. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”

The Secretary’s plea opened a two-day Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC that will highlight the under-recognized dangers of distracted behavior behind the wheel.

Secretary LaHood also announced new research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured.  There are more than six million accidents each year in the U.S.

On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. Numbers for hand-free cell use were not revealed, as they are difficult to compile.

As expected, the debate continued late into the afternoon over how serious cognitive distraction is in all types of cell phone use. Studies by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety and the University of Utah show the use of either type of cell phone increases accident risk four or five times.

But Not From The Car!

But Not From the Car!

It became clearer from comments from panel participants and government researchers as the day progressed that the Federal government will regulate devices that take a driver’s eyes off the road. It also appears that the use of hand held phone use would be banned.

(more…)