DOT Unveils New “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving”
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood unveiled a new “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving.” It urges parents, teens, driving instructors, automakers, and auto safety advocates to help save lives by taking the fight against distracted driving to the next level, LaHood writes on his blog, FastLane. He notes that in 2010, at least 3,092 people were killed on U.S. roads in distraction-affected accidents, approximately one in every 10 fatalities.
As Angela Greiling Keane reports for Bloomberg, LaHood said the following at a press conference yesterday in Washington, D.C.:
‘Americans have gotten into very dangerous behavior with their cellphones and their texting devices to think they can use them behind the wheel of a car,’ he said. ‘People continue to be killed and injured despite the fact these deaths are 100 percent preventable.’
At the press conference, LaHood said that U.S. regulators may draft guidelines for mobile devices and voice-activated controls in cars, Keane writes. And those guidelines might also apply to handheld phones, GPS devices, portable music players such as iPods, and voice-activated systems such as Ford Motor Company’s Sync and General Motors’ OnStar.
Larry Copeland writes in USA TODAY that LaHood said he would leave drafting of such a bill up to Congress, and would like to see a national ban. “He declined to say whether such a ban should apply to both handheld and hands-free devices, arguing that research on the relative safety of voice-activated technology is incomplete,” Copeland writes.
Distracted driving, Copeland notes, has been the highest-profile crusade of LaHood’s administration. Although only 18 states had texting-while-driving bans, and seven had handheld cellphone bans three-and-a-half years ago; now 39 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) prohibit texting while driving, and 10 states plus D.C. ban all handheld cellphone use while driving, Copeland writes.
LaHood writes on his blog about the Blueprint:
I know many of you have made a big change and no longer make calls or read text messages while driving. You’re not only driving distraction-free, but you’re also demonstrating safe behavior for the young drivers and soon-to-be drivers who ride with you.
But we need everyone to do their part, whether it’s helping pass strong laws, educate our youngest and most vulnerable drivers, or starting your own campaign to end distracted driving. And that’s where our new Blueprint comes in.
The blueprint builds on the national momentum we’ve spearheaded for the last three years and outlines steps everyone can take, including:
• Encouraging the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical legislation;
• Challenging the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines that reduce the potential for distractions on devices built or brought into vehicles;
• Partnering with driver education professionals to add new materials that educate novices about driver distraction and its consequences; and
• Providing everyone with actions they can take to help end distracted driving on America’s roadways.
In addition, the “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” expands to two more states a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration pilot program that has already succeeded in reducing texting while driving in Syracuse, NY (by 32%) and Hartford, CT (by 72%), Copeland reports. California and Delaware will receive $2.4 million in federal grants to test the effectiveness of police crackdowns and high-profile public education campaigns in reducing distracted driving.
“We know we have much more work to do,” LaHood said. “One of every 10 highway fatalities is caused by distracted driving. At this very moment, 660,000 drivers are talking on the phone while behind the wheel on our nation’s roadways.”
You can download the “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” here (PDF).
Keane points out that LaHood discussed the next steps in the campaign to end distracted driving one day after Verizon Wireless (the largest U.S. mobile-phone carrier) announced that it is teaming up with automakers — including Toyota, Honda, BMW, Hyundai, and Kia — to promote the use of fourth-generation wireless Internet features in cars. Verizon’s statement, Keane reports, said that the 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars will encourage manufacturers, suppliers, device makers, and other companies to use the new wireless standard, which allows for faster Internet connections.
Image by United States Department of Transportation, used under Fair Use: Reporting.