US: Transport Secretary concerned about growing in-vehicle tech

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is concerned that a host of technologies in new vehicles are distracting drivers.

“Some of these car manufacturers are putting all these gadgets and bells and whistles that are going to distract people — and we’re trying to get gadgets and bells and whistles out of their hands and out of their ears,” LaHood said.

He declined to say if he’ll try to restrict in-vehicle technologies.

“I am going to talk to the car manufacturers and see where this leads,” he said.

LaHood already has campaigned for a ban on hand-held texting and cell phone use.

The Transportation Department plans to issue regulations this year to discourage distracted driving. LaHood has made it a priority, saying he is on a “rampage” against the practice.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says nearly 6,000 people died last year in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured.

On any given day last year, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.

President Barack Obama has barred four million federal workers from sending text messages while driving government vehicles. The directive applies to privately owned vehicles driven by employees on official business.

After a round of meetings in October, LaHood plans to meet again with automakers on the issue.

He said he saw Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Alan Mulally on Saturday, and the two have been e-mailing about distracted driving.

“Ford believes that industry-government partnerships can work to advance our shared policy goals of better fuel economy, cleaner environment, a safe driving experience and strengthening American manufacturing and jobs,” spokesman Mike Moran said.

Ford has been especially concerned that regulators may try to impose rules on its Sync in-vehicle communication system, which is a Ford selling point over some of its competitors.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently issued a study stating that bans on hand-held cell phones in New York, the District of Columbia, Connecticut and California have had no impact on the number of auto accidents.

But LaHood said the reason the prohibitions are ineffective is that police aren’t aggressively enforcing them.

Courtesy: Detroit News.

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