Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are asking automakers for help in reducing the distracted driving epidemic which daily undermines the safety of the nation’s motorists.
The NHTSA has focused on the dangers of distracted driving in recent years, in a variety of ways. Recently, the NHTSA launched a website informing citizens about the dangers of distracted driving. The website provides statistics on the risks and consequences of distracted driving as well as links to the NHTSA’s public service announcements (PSAs) warning against this dangerous practice.
Now, the NHTSA has asked automakers to join in the cause. Secretary Foxx and NHTSA officials hope to reduce the amount of distracting gadgetry that is integrated into the design of new cars. Safety experts claim that an increased level of connectivity puts drivers at risk of visual, aural and cognitive distractions.
“There’s absolutely no reason for any person to download their Facebook into the car,” Ray LaHood recently said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Many new cars make technology which allows drivers to connect to e-mail and social networking sites while they drive. Although some of this technology is toted as “hands free”, the cognitive distraction that this technology poses concerns safety experts. The NHTSA can regulate such technology if the administration can prove the technology poses a risk to drivers.
The NHTSA has asked automakers to use some of their marketing dollars to produce PSAs warning against the dangers of distracted driving. So far, Subaru and BMW have signed on. BMW will release new PSAs via TV, print advertising, and the internet which feature a mother using her cell phone while driving with her toddler in the backseat.
Anthony Foxx would like the PSAs produced by the automakers to reduce distracted driving in a manner similar to the way in which the “Click It or Ticket” program has helped increase seatbelt use in recent years. In 2010, seatbelt use reached 85 percent with the help of the campaign.
Although the NHTSA is supportive of new technology that helps keep drivers safer, like lane departure warnings and collision alerts, it is trying to find a way to curb the development of technology that can lead to distractions on the road. The key in the near future will be for the NHTSA to find a balance between the “good technologies” and those which pose unsafe distractions.