With a steady rise in cell phone related car accidents, distracted driving is becoming more and more of a hot button issue among legislators and drivers alike. On Tuesday December 13, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged states to put forth efforts to ban all cell phone use among motor vehicle drivers.
We recently reported on NTSB’s push for cell phone bans among commercial truck drivers following a devastating trucking accident which claimed the lives of 11 people in Munford, Kentucky. But an August 5, 2010 four-vehicle crash which resulted in two deaths and 38 injuries has motivated the board to urge a ban on all non-emergency cell phone use for all drivers.
Although the NTSB does not have the authority to legislate, the board’s unanimous recommendation promises to spark much debate on the issue of distracted driving. Members of the NTSB are calling for a ban not only on the use of hand-held cell phones but on hands-free devices as well. NTSB member Robert Sumwalt is being widely quoted, by CNN for example, after referring to distracted driving as “the new DUI.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the year 2010 saw 3,092 traffic fatalities due to distracted driving. Cell phone use—particularly texting while driving—is becoming an epidemic in America, one which requires immediate attention.
The problem: While more and more states are implementing bans on cell phone use in motor vehicles, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety makes the claim that these bans result in little to no change in traffic crashes. Whether banned or not, many people will continue to use their cell phones while they drive. In response to this issue, many car manufacturers are developing new technologies which promise to make in-car communication safer and more productive.
The video below, provided by CNN, features Ford researcher Jim Buczkowski discussing the voice-activated Sync system. The goal for Sync and similar systems is to enable drivers to make phone calls while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Take a look:
In addition to hands-free capabilities, CNN’s Peter Valdes-Dapena reports that these technologies include "systems that alert drivers to stopped or slow-moving cars or pedestrians ahead of them" and "systems that warn when a vehicle is drifting out of its lane.” And even though this technology remains a work-in-progress, we can hope that these systems will help to reduce the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving.
For more information on texting while driving, and for suggestions on how to remedy the problem, please see the article “How to Prevent Your Kids from Texting While Driving,” which can be found on the Kreithen, Baron & Carpey website.