Everyone knows that distracted driving is dangerous. There’s simply no safety replacement for staying focused on the road at all times. But when it comes to improving road safety, people seem divided about whether technology should make texting and talking on the phone easier in order to let the driver’s eyes remain on the road, or whether technology should prevent distractions by blocking cell phone use before the driver’s attention wanders. This week, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have provided their answer with an effort to eliminate distracting technology behind the wheel.
The NHTSA seems to take particular issue with Chevrolet’s new compact car which targets younger drivers with a Facebook update feature to deliver your friends’ updates through an Onstar communication system. General Motors claims the technology could improve safety by replacing a handheld action with an audible alert. But LaHood doesn’t buy this. “There is absolutely no reason for any person to download their Facebook into the car,” he said in an interview. “It’s not necessary.”
Secretary LaHood’s warning gets to the heart of the problem with some of the tech “solutions” to distracted driving: sometimes technology makes driving more dangerous. Studies have shown that even when the driver’s eyes are on the road and his or her hands are free, drivers can be seriously distracted by phone conversations. The Department of Transportation reports, for example, that there were 4,500 accidents among people using hands-free devices between 2006 and 2008, barely lower than the 5,500 accidents for drivers using hand-held devices.
LaHood also offered some praise for a few car companies leading the charge against distracted driving. BMW, for example, has launched a new North America campaign titled “DON’T TXT & DRIVE: When the engine starts, the texting stops” complete with a set of powerful PSAs against the dangerous practice. “Distracted driving of any kind, especially texting while driving, is an extremely dangerous activity that costs thousands of lives every year,” said BMW North America CEO Jim O’Donnell. “We developed this campaign to be impactful in hopes of evoking emotion and conveying the serious dangerous of distracted driving and its potential consequences.”
Visit Secretary LaHood’s Fastlane blog to watch the BMW anti-distracted driving videos. And see our interactive state-by-state map of distracted driving laws for information on the regulations in your backyard.
Photo credit: jeffwilcox