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NHTSA Proposes New Guidelines On Driver Distraction 17
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Distracted Driving, Kurt, News on 02 17th, 2012

The issue of distracted driving is a hot topic among a wide array of special-interest groups. Those who are pro-cell-phone, pro-texting, pro-surfing-while-driving don’t believe their behavior poses a risk, despite numerous studies (and angry motorists giving the single-digit-salute) that indicate otherwise. On the other extreme is the view of the National Transportation Safety Board, which seems to favor a ban of operating any device with the potential of causing driver distraction.

Even Ray La Hood, the Secretary of Transportation who is staunchly against mobile device use behind the wheel, doesn’t fully buy into the NTSB’s recommendations. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed some middle ground, issuing a list of guidelines it refers to as “common sense.” As documented by the Detroit Free Press, these guidelines include:

Making vehicle-based communication systems simpler and quicker to use.
Designing devices for one-hand use, that require no more than two seconds of driver attention.
Elimination of unnecessary driver information.
Disabling conventional text messaging systems, internet surfing, social media updating, manual entry of nav system addresses and 10-digit phone number dialing.

The recommendations target driver distractions only, and passenger use of cell phones, tablets, nav systems, etc. isn’t affected by the proposed guidelines.

While most praise the guidelines as a necessary first step, we disagree and don’t think they go far enough. At 60 miles per hour, two seconds of driver inattention translates to 176 feet, and a lot can go wrong in that kind of distance.

At the end of the day, nothing will change regardless of the proposed guidelines. Drivers who want to stay connected behind the wheel will continue to do so, regardless of the safety risks and legal implications. If stepped-up enforcement of distracted driving laws can’t curb the problem, all the recommendations in the world won’t help, either.

Cell Phone Blocking Is Here: Is That Good News Or Bad News? 23
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Car Tech, Cell Phone Blocking, Distracted Driving, Kurt, News on 01 23rd, 2012

Scosche Industries' cellCONTROL module. Image: Scosche Industries

Scosche Industries builds accessories for car audio and consumer electronics, and it’s also created the first (that we’re aware of) legal cell phone blocking system. Unlike cell phone jammers (which have existed for years but are illegal for civilians to use), the Scosche system, called “cellCONTROL,” works via Bluetooth and only with a paired phone.

As Autoblog explains, cellCONTROL is a two-part system, requiring both a smartphone app and a cellCONTROL module to function. When the app is installed on a phone, and the module is plugged into the vehicle diagnostic port, all internet connectivity, inbound and outbound calls and texts are blocked. Tamper with the module, and the account administrator will get a text or e-mail message saying the system has been disabled.

Since the system detects when a vehicle is in motion, it’s smart enough to only block calls when the vehicle is moving. Likewise, calls are allowed when a paired Bluetooth hands-free device is detected.

The system starts at just under $130, and we see a huge market for both parents and businesses alike. We say it’s a good thing, since distracted driving is an epidemic that is only getting worse, and this seems like one way of addressing it (at least for new drivers). Sadly, the people who need this the most won’t even consider using it, since they don’t perceive themselves as part of the problem. What’s your take? Is this good news or bad?

NTSB And Secretary Of Transportation Can’t Agree On Cell Phone Ban 22
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Distracted Driving, Kurt, News, Ray LaHood on 12 22nd, 2011

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood

Last week, the NTSB came out with some pretty strong recommendations regarding cell phone use in vehicles. Under its recommendations, drivers would be banned from using cell phones in cars, unless the vehicle came equipped with an integrated Bluetooth phone link. Oddly, even aftermarket Bluetooth devices were covered by the proposed ban.

Now comes word from The Detroit News that Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood isn’t in favor of the proposed ban, saying that, “The problem is not-hands-free. That is not the big problem in America.”

Secretary LaHood wants to focus on the issue of hand-held cell phone use while driving, and is working with major automakers to supports legislation that bans the use of hand-held phones while driving.

While individual states, not the federal government, set and enforce rules relating to the use of cell phones behind the wheel, the feds can tie highway funding to traffic laws. In other words, states that set and enforce bans on cell phone use would get a larger portion of the highway funding pie, while states (like Florida) that neither enact nor enforce legislation would get less funding.

If you don’t think distracted driving is a problem, then you clearly don’t spend much time on the roads. In Florida, distracted and inattentive drivers are an epidemic, and everyone we know has stories of near misses (or worse, accidents) caused by a cell-phone addled driver. Hands free systems are better than hand-held, but in our opinion, if you’re talking on the phone you’re still distracted.

Maybe the solution is public shame, and we’ve thought about having bumper stickers reading “Caution, Distracted Driver” printed up. Next time someone blows a red light and almost takes you out because they’re talking to a friend about nothing in particular, why not follow them to work and sticker their car? It’ll warn the rest of us who don’t drive with our heads up our collective asses, and may even save a few lives.

Driver Distraction Responsible For 25% Of Accidents 12
Posted by Kurt Ernst in Automotive, Distracted Driving, Kurt, News on 07 12th, 2011

Image: P. Gordon

If the Governor’s Highway Safety Association is correct, up to one quarter of all traffic accidents are caused by drivers distracted by portable electronics. If that’s not a sobering enough statistic, the GHSA study revealed that drivers are distracted up to 50 percent of their time behind the wheel. It also confirmed what we already know: cellphone use and texting increase the risk of an accident, and texting increases the risk more than just talking on a cell phone.

Bluetooth headsets, or other hands-free devices, don’t make talking on a cell phone any safer. The brain can only process a limited number of complex tasks at the same time, and it looks like any telephone conversation distracts from the task of driving. Look at it this way: you have $1.00 to spend on concentration. Driving in good weather, in reasonable traffic, costs $0.45. Talking on the cell phone costs $0.35, but throw another variable into the mix and it’s easy to “overspend”. Swerving to avoid the brake drum that just fell out of the scrappers pickup two cars ahead of you costs $0.50. You’ve only got $0.20 left, so the result is quite likely an accident.

The report further stated that cell phone and texting bans aren’t all that effective. First, they can prove difficult to enforce, and police usually won’t pull over drivers for talking on the phone (unless there’s a regional, stepped up enforcement program in effect). Many drivers text with the phone near their lap, out of line of sight from police. You can’t enforce what you can’t see.

The GHSA’s recommendation is to pass a complete ban on cellphone use by novice drivers, and to ban texting by all drivers. That’s not too far a leap from current laws, which ban cell phone use for novice drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and ban texting for all drivers in 34 states and Washington, DC. What’s your take? Do you cop to talking and driving? Texting and driving? Why or why not?

Source: Kicking Tires