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LaHood Continues To Voice Safety Issues Regarding Distracted Driving

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On: Tue, Jan 25, 2011 at 3:49PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

LaHood Continues To Voice Safety Issues Regarding Distracted Driving

It seems like a fairly clear-cut case of the law of cause and effect in action; when you drive, a quick distraction can cause an accident. A person driving on the road needs to process many factors all in a simultaneous rotation: what’s in front, what’s in back, what’s to the sides, what’s the speed, what the road like. That’s a lot to keep track of when you’re moving a massive amount of steel at high velocities. Now add into that mix the distraction of texting, talking on the phone, and otherwise being distracted with gadgets and gizmos and you can see what this is matter of concern for many. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made distracted driving top of the list of his safety agenda.

“We will not be deterred by false choices about addressing distracted driving on the one hand and alternative critical safety issues on the other,” LaHood said today in Washington. He was responding to criticism from the former head of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Jeffrey Runge.

Last week, Runge told USA Today that the Transportation Department should focus on bigger causes of traffic deaths and injuries. Consider the numbers; according to recent stats released by the NHTSA, up to 5,500 became fatalities and 500,000 people were injured in 2009 alone. All of those incidents were related to distracted driving.

Wouldn’t that be enough to send up the red flags? Apparently not in the mind of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund who echoed Runge’s criticisms of LaHood's work. Lund's reasoning? Based on his data, all those newly enacted texting bans haven't had much impact on distracted driving-related crashes.

Secretary LaHood is standing firm. “Motorists are distracted by any use of mobile phones while driving, including hands-free calls made using vehicle information and entertainment systems such as Ford’s Sync and GM’s OnStar,” he said.

Hoping to voice his concerns to the automakers, LaHood intends to meet with the executives at Ford and Chrysler next week in Detroit. Topic number one will be how to curb distracted driving. LaHood has already been engaged in similar discussions with the heads of GM, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and BMW.

One positive step that LaHood cites is the corporate ban for employees using a cell while driving on the company dime. For instance, grocery chain Safeway Incorporated sent out the decree last year that all 797 of its truckers and 403 of its home delivery drivers were banned from texting or talking on any cell phone while driving.


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