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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’

National Academy of Sciences and NASA to Study Unintended Acceleration Issues for DOT

Secretary LaHood launches two “major” investigations on a relatively rare but troublesome and controversial safety issue.

by on Mar.30, 2010

What on earth is going on with those Toyotas?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced two investigations designed to answer questions surrounding the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration.

LaHood also asked the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General to assess whether the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation conducted an “adequate review” of complaints of alleged unintended acceleration reported to NHTSA from 2002 to the present.

The ongoing controversy of the problem in Toyota and other vehicles have led to numerous charges from critics that NHTSA is underfunded and improperly staffed to deal with safety matters. It appears particularly weak in the area of electronic controls and systems, as automakers continue to expand rapidly their use in all vehicles.

There are also charges that former NHTSA employees working for Toyota  prevented thorough investigations and delayed safety recalls.

The independent National Academy of Sciences will examine the subject of unintended acceleration and electronic vehicle controls across the entire automotive industry. A panel of experts will review industry and government efforts to identify possible sources of unintended acceleration, including electronic vehicle controls, human error, mechanical failure and interference with accelerator systems. The study is expected to take 15 months. See The Case for “Black Box” Electronic Data Recorders

NAS experts will look at software, computer hardware design, electromagnetic compatibility and electromagnetic interference. The panel will make recommendations to NHTSA on how its rulemaking, research and defect investigation activities may help ensure the safety of electronic control systems in motor vehicles.

NASA Specifically on Toyota Issues

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Probes!

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT’s vehicle safety agency, has enlisted NASA engineers with expertise in areas such as computer controlled electronic systems, electromagnetic interference and software integrity to help tackle the issue of unintended vehicle acceleration in Toyotas.   At least 52 deaths are allegedly the result of  the well-publicized problems and an ongoing series of recalls for Lexus and Toyota models. (more…)

Traffic Fatalities for 2009 Reach Record Low

Calendar year 2009 traffic fatalities continue downward trend.

by on Mar.11, 2010

NHTSA is charged with failing as the nation's safety agency in the ongoing Toyota unintended acceleration and stuck accelerator pedal matters

The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced that the number of overall traffic fatalities reported at the end of 2009 reached the lowest level since 1954, declining for the 15th consecutive quarter.

Secretary LaHood released the preliminary data ahead of a scheduled hearing this afternoon by the Subcommittee On Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the U.S. House Representatives.

NHTSA is charged with failing to do its job as the nation’s safety agency in the ongoing Toyota unintended acceleration and stuck accelerator pedal matters.

More than 60 deaths are now alleged to have occurred because of safety related defects. Moreover, it took a visit to Japan by the former acting administrator of NHTSA to force a Toyota recall, since Toyota’s American executives had no power to do so.

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Data!

The U.S. fatality record speaks for itself, but the timing of its release was clearly designed to give David Strickland, the current administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, talking points to use in NHTSA’s defense at the hearing.    (more…)

Ford Owned Volvo Tows Line on Cell Phone Use

The Swedish company renowned for auto safety ignores a key aspect in the cell phone use while driving debate.

by on Sep.29, 2009

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

The National Safety Council wants a total ban on driving and any kind of cell phone use.

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.

We Concentrate on Driving!

We Concentrate on 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.

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Cell Phone Use Showdown Coming at Distracted Driving Summit Next Week in Washington

Automakers are enabling deadly driving behaviors with an increasing array of profitable electronic options.

by on Sep.23, 2009

The National Safety Councile wants a total ban on driving and cell phone use.

The National Safety Council wants a total ban on driving and any type of cell phone use.

Next week when the Distracted Driving Summit called for by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opens, the debate will intensify around what to do about a growing public safety problem – the role of electronic devices in an increasing number of auto accidents.

Almost 42,000 lives are lost annually on U.S. Highways. And traffic crashes are the primary cause of incapacitating injuries, as well as the number one killer of Americans under the age of 34. In addition to staggering psychological costs, the annual economic loss to society because of these crashes, defined by lost worker productivity, medical costs, and insurance costs, among others, is estimated at more than $150 billion. No one seriously debates that there is a need for an improvement in motor vehicle safety.

Getting unsafe vehicles off the road is now broadly recognized as common sense more than forty years after the Senate  conducted hearings that led to auto safety legislation in 1967, which automakers fought all the way. Now a new deadly threat is emerging from the practices of automakers and sellers of electronic devices. No surprise given the history, automakers are once again fighting rules that could potentially eliminate a substantial number of accidents.

Driver inattention is a leading cause of traffic crashes, responsible for about 80% of all collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Moreover, leading the way in this lack of visual and cognitive attention is cell phone use – either hand-held or hands-free. With more than 100 million people each day practicing dangerous distracted driving behavior, the fatalities and accidents such behavior causes is growing. There is also the growing use of in-vehicle telematics and “infotainment systems” that clearly distract drivers.

Particularly dangerous is the widespread use of cell phones. 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.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association of 11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen, contends that hands-free phones are safe – but can supply no studies to support that assertion.

Telephone conversation impairs sustained visual attention

We Pay Attention!

We Pay Attention!

The problem with such an obviously self-serving position is that recent peer-reviewed research shows that holding telephone conversations disrupts one’s driving ability in a way similar to drunken driving. (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2008, 15 (6), 1135-1140 doi:10.3758/PBR.15.6.1135)

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DOT Announces a Distracted Driving Summit

Pressure is growing to stop ignoring a deadly problem.

by on Aug.05, 2009

Ray LaHood

"The bottom line is, distracted driving is dangerous driving," said Secretary Ray LaHood.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced a summit meeting next month to “address the dangers of text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel.”

In late September, senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives and academics will convene in Washington, DC to discuss ideas about how to combat distracted driving.

The summit appears to be a response to charges that the Department of Transportation, the government agency responsible for traffic safety, has been suppressing studies showing just how bad the problem is, and, worse, for bowing to Congressional pressure not to pursue regulations that would save lives. 

But once again the announcement skirts the core safety issue, cell phone use, which produces accident rates the equivalent of drunk driving.

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety have charged that since 2003, the government has known that drivers talking on their cell phones experience the same potentially deadly distraction whether they are using a handheld device or hands-free technology. The pressure groups made the accusations after a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act obtained internal documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of DOT.

The suppressed evidence and opinions by safety experts advising NHTSA have since been confirmed by numerous independent studies.

But not while driving!

But not while driving!

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting, but unfortunately, laws aren’t always enough,” said LaHood. “We’ve learned from past safety awareness campaigns that it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results. That’s why this meeting with experienced officials, experts and law enforcement will be such a crucial first step in our efforts to put an end to distracted driving.”

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