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LaHood Opens Second Distracted Driving Summit

New distracted driving regs and employer policies coming. Technology both vilified as a cause and praised as a solution.

by on Sep.21, 2010

It's clear that technology causes the DD problem; there is little data showing that it can solve it. The vehicle is not a mobile device say critics.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC today by announcing new anti-distracted driving regulations for drivers transporting hazardous materials, commercial truck and bus drivers, and rail operators.

LaHood said that he is initiating a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials. In addition, LaHood said that two rules proposed at last year’s summit have now become law – rules banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job, and restricting train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices while in the driver’s seat.  More than 4,000 people died in heavy truck crashes in 2008, but only 15% of them were in the trucks.

“We are taking action on a number of fronts to address the epidemic of distracted driving in America,” said Secretary LaHood.  “With the help of the experts, policymakers, and safety advocates we’ve assembled here, we are going to do everything we can to put an end to distracted driving and save lives.”

More than 100 million people each day are now engaging in dangerous distracted driving behavior or DD. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research, distraction-related fatalities represented 16% of overall traffic fatalities in 2009.


New OnStar Services Launch Monday despite DD

GM's expansion includes social media and voice texting as Distracted Driving remains a major public health problem.

by on Sep.15, 2010

Auto companies remain committed to expanding vehicle electronics and web connectivity.

OnStar is debuting next week new services and technologies for its 6 million subscribers as part of a “realignment” of the company’s long-term strategy.

The GM subsidiary plans to offer what it calls innovations that “significantly increase drivers’ in-car connection,” on the eve of the second annual Distracted Driving summit that is being convened next week in Washington, DC by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

OnStar executives did not respond to queries about its participation in the meetings. There are no specific public data that show to what extent, if any, OnStar users are part of deadly DD.

LaHood has repeatedly criticized the growing use of electronics in automobiles, but is powerless to regulate it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (part of DOT) is prohibited by the U.S. Congress from promulgating national regulations concerning distracted driving; so LaHood has been using his “bully pulpit” to oppose the well-financed auto, electronics and cell phone lobbies whose companies’ devices are enabling almost 6,000 deaths each year and more than 500,000 injuries.

Simultaneous events held in New York, Austin, San Francisco and Miami yesterday gave OnStar subscribers a first look at new technologies possible through the ninth generation hardware, including in-car social media interactions that are being tested.

“With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we’ve created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth,” said OnStar President Chris Preuss.


Deadly Distracted Driving Expands as Automakers Market More and More Unsafe Devices

Drivers underestimate the dangers of cell phones and portable electronic devices as usage and accidents grow.

by on Jul.28, 2009

“Death by Cell Phone” is the title of a new billboard advertisement the National Safety Council.

“Death by Cell Phone” is a new outdoor advertising campaign from the National Safety Council.

It’s not surprising that drivers overestimate their skills and underestimate the harmful and fatal effects of distractions caused by a growing number of other activities while they drive. What is surprising is the lack of  regulation from governments and  their safety agencies as study after study shows that the problem  is growing as automakers expand their marketing of electronic devices or systems, such as Bluetooth, that ease their use.

More than 100 million people are now engaging in dangerous distracted driving behavior each day while driving. Particularly dangerous is the widespread use of cell phones. The issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the distraction caused by the conversation. That’s the reason the National Safety Council urged a total ban on using them while driving earlier this year after conducting research that confirmed previous studies on just how dangerous they 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.

The latest research released today by the AAA Foundation confirms the growing problem of the disconnect between behaviors that drivers know are dangerous and their continued practicing of them. Overall, the majority of American motorists reported to AAA that they feel no safer now than they did five years ago while driving.

A previous AAA Foundation survey found two out of three drivers mistakenly believe using a hands-free cell phone is safer than talking on a hand-held device. In this survey, the use of a hands-free cell phone was the only behavior that more than half of all drivers rated as acceptable, yet numerous other scientific studies have shown it is equally as dangerous as talking on a hand-held phone, both quadruple your risk of being in a crash.

But Not While Driving

But Not While Driving

Motorists know this intuitively, and rated distracted driving as a top threat, with 80% seeing it as a very serious threat to their safety. Even those who admitted to distracted driving acknowledged they were putting themselves in danger. And more than half of those who admitted to reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving indicated they were much more likely to have an accident.