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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…)

DOT Secretary Announces Distracted Driving Rules

The use of electronic devices is out for Federal employees.

by on Oct.01, 2009


“I fully expect that all 58,000 DOT employees and contractors will take this order seriously."

As he predicted, at the conclusion of a two-day summit on distracted driving in Washington, D.C. today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a series of actions that the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation are taking to help put an end to distracted driving.

Last night, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging or using cell phones while driving government-owned vehicles or while driving privately owned vehicles when they are on official government business. More than 4 million federal employees are involved in the order.

Left unclear in the moves is the regulatory status of cell phone use while driving. Critics of the ongoing lack of regulatory action on cell phones  say that the texting ban is a political expedient that ignores the far larger problem. The use of any time of cell phone wile driving increases accident risk for to six time according to studies.

The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies concerning electronics and driving on the job that mirror the Executive Order.

“This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. It shows that the federal government is leading by example,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“I fully expect that all 58,000 DOT employees and contractors will take this order seriously. Let’s show our friends and families that we can resist the temptation to answer the phone, send a message, or allow some other distraction to interfere with our driving.”