Distracted driving debate remains prominent issue

May 1, 2012

USA Today (4/29, O’Donnell) reported on distracted driving and the disagreement on how to regulate it. The article noted that “there’s disagreement among safety experts over whether there even is a distracted-driving crisis and just who should have to solve it — the auto or cellphone industry.” The distracted driving debate has been at the forefront since Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood designated it a priority in 2009. For example, “state legislators, with the apparent support of constituents, have been moving at a speed believed unprecedented in highway safety history to enact laws banning texting and, less speedily, handheld cellphones.” And “in December, the NTSB called on states to ban both handheld and hands-free cellphone use while driving.” The article also noted NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman’s statement at a distracted driving forum last month on the lack of participation from the cellphone industry at the forum.

NHTSA to announce auto black-box rules this spring. the Columbus (OH) Dispatch (4/30, Manning) reported, “Drivers might want to think twice before telling a police officer they were going the speed limit right before a crash,” as those reconstructing crashes are increasingly turning to data from automobile “black boxes,” technically knows as air-bag control or system deployment modules. “Data” gleaned from the devices “can be as simple as vehicle speed and as complex as engine speed, speed by an individual wheel and whether the brakes were applied.” According to the article, “after new rules from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration take effect next year and mandate that new vehicles with the modules record certain data points, getting consistent information could become easier.” This spring, NHTSA plans to introduce rules that will require the use of the devices in all vehicles. Wall Street Journal