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DOT Pressures Law and Auto Makers over DD

Transportation Secretary LaHood calls a Second Distracted Driving Summit as Congress, industry ignore the deadly issue.

by on Jul.28, 2010

Particularly lethal is the widespread use of cell phones, now a global problem.

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is prohibited by the U.S. Congress from promulgating regulations concerning distracted driving, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been using his “bully pulpit” to oppose the well financed auto, electronics and cell phone lobbies whose devices are enabling almost 6,000 deaths each year and more than 500,000 injuries. (See Smart Phones Add to Distracted Driving Epidemic)

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

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 and DC Showdown over Distracted Driving Lobbyists)

Therefore there is no surprise in this bureau that LaHood has just announced that a second National Distracted Driving Summit will be held on 21 September 2010 in Washington, DC. More than 100 million people each day are now engaging in dangerous distracted driving behavior.


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.


Smart Phones Add to Distracted Driving Epidemic

Ownership increases the desire for more in vehicle connectivity, which will lead to still more needless DD deaths and injuries.

by on Jun.23, 2010

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

As more vehicle owners trade-in traditional cell phones for “smart phones,” their interest in communication- and connectivity-related features for their vehicle has also increased.

That’s a major – and deeply troubling – finding, in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Automotive Emerging Technologies Study released today.

The study is designed to measure consumer interest for emerging automotive technologies, both before and after an estimated market price is revealed. The results come as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrestles with DD – distracted driving – which is responsible for almost 6,000 deaths annually.

The U.S. safety agency also estimates that 515,000 people were injured in police-reported crashes in which at least one form of driver distraction was involved in the accident.  (See Adults Worse than Teens about Cell Distractions)

NHTSA does not have the statutory authority to issue regulations concerning DD. And automakers and electronics companies are making enormous profits from increasing the use of devices that cause distracted driving, without any apparent legal liability. (See Deadly Distracted Driving Expands as Automakers Market More and More Unsafe Devices and also Senate Kicks Distracted Driving Back to the States )

The study finds that among the 51% of vehicle owners who have a smart phone, interest levels for wireless connectivity systems are higher than the industry average, both before and after the price is revealed. Before price is revealed, 77% of smart phone owners indicate interest in wireless connectivity systems for their vehicles, compared with the industry average of 64%. (This industry average is also troubling.)

More than one-half (56%) of vehicle owners with smart phones are interested in mobile routers, compared with an industry average of 46%. In addition, 47% are interested in having an in-dash computer versus a 38% industry average.


“Although several states have imposed bans on drivers using hand-held devices and one-half of states have or are in the process of implementing bans on texting while driving, this legislation has not necessarily put a stop to how vehicle owners are manipulating these devices,” said Amy Jacobs, manager of automotive emerging technologies research at J.D. Power and Associates.