Major automakers today endorsed a ban on texting and using hand-held mobile phones while driving, ahead of a Transportation Department summit next week on distracted driving.
“Clearly, using a hand-held device to text or call while driving is a safety risk,” said Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “The alliance supports a ban on hand-held texting and calling while driving to accelerate the transition to more advanced, safer ways to manage many common potential distractions.”The alliance represents 11 automakers, including Detroit’s Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG and BMW AG.
McCurdy said using a mobile phone without a hands-free device or scrolling through a cellular phone’s list of phone numbers may put drivers at risk.
But the industry strongly supports allowing hands-free devices to make calls. Some states ban the use of cell phones by drivers without using a hands-free device. “You have to minimize the eyes off the road time. That’s critical,” McCurdy said.
This announcement is a boost for the Obama administration’s efforts to curb this growing problem. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood plans to hold a summit next week on distracted driving and address the issue of texting.
“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting,” LaHood said in August. “But we’ve learned from our efforts to get people to wear seat belts and to persuade them not to drive drunk that laws aren’t always enough. Often, you need to combine education with enforcement to get results.”
The wireless industry — including cellphone manufacturers, carriers, and some Internet companies represented by the CTIA-Wireless Association — also believes texting “is incompatible with safe driving.”
The trade group supports state and local efforts to ban texting and driving as well as public education and aggressive enforcement.
There were more than 1 trillion text messages sent and received on wireless devices last year, including cell phones and smart phones, the association said. There are no statistics on how many people drive and text, the group said. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study released in July said drivers of heavy vehicles using a hand-held text messaging system had 23.2 times as high a risk of a crash than drivers who weren’t.
The National Safety Council, a research group, is pushing for a full ban on cell phone use and texting while driving.
About a dozen U.S. states have passed laws banning texting while driving. A handful have made cellphone use illegal while behind the wheel, a practice that automakers do not oppose in all circumstances.
Legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York would withhold 25 percent of federal highway money from states that do not ban texting while driving and the provision is similar to one that enticed states to adopt a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level limit for drunken driving. A text-while-driving ban has also been proposed in the House of Representatives.