Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV,  U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

On Thursday, U.S. Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV will host a daylong summit titled “Over-Connected and Behind the Wheel: A Summit on Technological Solutions to Distracted Driving.” Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, told Hearst Newspapers: “We have to do everything possible to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and get every driver to break this habit that has devastating consequences for public health,” as Stewart M. Powell reports in

A Democratic Press Office press release says that the summit, which will start at 10 a.m., will examine ways that technology can minimize distracted driving, “which has become a major public safety concern in recent years.” The summit will be composed of three roundtable discussions on technology’s potential to encourage drivers to focus on driving without being distracted. Participants in the first roundtable, “The State of Distracted Driving,” will include representatives from the automobile, consumer electronics and wireless industries, as well as government agencies and safety groups, such as:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • AAA
  • Consumer Electronics Association
  • Association of Global Automakers
  • Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
  • CTIA – The Wireless Association

The second roundtable, “The State of Technology,” will cover which solutions for distracted driving are available now, and what steps can be taken to make such technology more effective and readily available, the press release says. The participants in this roundtable will include representatives from automobile, wireless, handset and mobile software industries, plus independent tech companies and safety groups, such as:

  • Google Inc.
  • AT&T Mobility
  • Samsung Electronics
  • Cellcontrol
  • Apple Inc.
  • Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc.
  • General Motors Company
  • Sprint Corporation
  • Consumers Union
  • Verizon Telematics
  • National Safety Council
  • Aegis Mobility

Rockefeller will lead the final roundtable of the day — “Where Do We Go From Here?” — to move the conversation towards action, the press release says. It will be a public challenge to all involved to collaborate and build “more robust” technological solutions to distracted driving. This roundtable will include many of the same stakeholders as attended the two earlier roundtables.

As Powell writes:

Of 33,561 traffic fatalities nationwide in 2012, 3,328 were caused by distracted driving that included talking or texting while under way, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of 2.4 million people injured that year, 421,000 were in accidents involving distracted drivers.

The deadly epidemic of distracted driving has defied dire parental warnings, heart-rending public service announcements, federally funded projects and targeted state and local law enforcement.

Rockefeller, a five-term West Virginia Democrat, hopes his committee can persuade overlapping industries to create new tech solutions that can divert incoming, non-emergency calls and disable non-emergency texting and calling from behind the wheel, and bring them to market sooner, Powell writes. “Congressional staffers are hoping the round-table discussions yield greater cooperation between automakers who profit from built-in communications consoles and cellphone service providers who profit from greater connectivity,” he adds.

Powell quotes a committee staff member:

‘Car and tech companies aren’t helping matters when they make products that give drivers the option to be constantly connected,’ says a committee staffer preparing the summit. ‘Automakers and technology companies should be doing everything possible to limit distractions and provide options for drivers to disconnect and to focus on the road.’

The summit will be steamed live online via the Senate Commerce Committee website. To begin streaming the webcast, refresh the Commerce Committee homepage 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time, the press release says.

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