STOP DISTRACTED DRIVING: Leaving no stone unturned – U.S.DOT joins Network of Employers for Traffic Safety for Drive Safely Work Week 2010

August 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

(Source: The FastLane Blog)

Sec. Ray LaHood is leaving no stones unturned in his effort to fight the Distracted Driving epidemic.  I reported yesterday about his efforts to team-up with ESPN and State Farm, taking the STOP DISTRACTED DRIVING message on road to 19 cities.  It is better and better by the day! In his blog post today, he announced that USDOT is expanding this initiative to involve private employers from around the country.  Laudable effort!

Focus: safe driving is serious business

In 2008, nearly 6,000 people in America died in crashes involving a distracted driver. It is a serious, life-threatening epidemic, and DOT cannot fight it alone.

One of the most important sources of support has been private employers. Businesses across the US have begun to adopt policies against distracted driving.

But many employers have not yet taken this crucial step to protect themselves and their staff. That’s why, as Drive Safely Work Week (October 4-8) approaches, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) has prepared a free, web-based toolkit to help employers take the crucial next step.

Click here to read the entire blog post

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Lawmakers hear that Texting while Driving is the “perfect storm” of Driver Distraction

October 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

(Source: Wired)

The senate, the Department of Transportation and the FCC want you to stop texting while driving, and on Wednesday, they all but declared a war on texting, promising education campaigns and laws to convince you to put your phone down — at least while you are piloting a two-ton SUV going 70 mph.

In a Senate hearing Wednesday, using a mobile phone while driving was said to be more dangerous than drunk driving, the cause of 16 percent of fatal accidents in the United States and a “perfect storm” of distraction.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood concluded his testimony by calling texting while driving a “menace to society,” saying the department’s research showed that 6,000 people a year died because it distracted drivers of all kinds. Here are some excerpts from the Secretary’s blog on this topic:

Here’s a start: Experts agree that there are three types of distraction–

Visual – taking your eyes off the road;

Manual – taking your hands off the wheel; and

Cognitive – taking your mind off the road.

While all distractions can adversely impact safety, texting is particularly troubling because it involves all three types of distraction. In the words of Dr. John Lee of the University of Wisconsin, this produces a “perfect storm.”

Not convinced? Our latest research shows that nearly 6,000 people died last year in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million people were injured.

At issue is the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009 (.pdf) that Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) introduced Wednesday that seeks to ban texting while driving, a category that includes using a PDA, checking e-mail on a BlackBerry or manipulating a GPS unit with your hand. The bill (S. 1938) also targets drivers who make calls without using a headset. Texting or calling while pulled over on the side of the road is fine, but not while at a red light.  

Rockefeller noted  “Nowadays, you have to text or you are not with it — you are not educated. But it’s lethal behavior when you get in a car.”   He wants some sort of phone-blocking device installed in cars, presumably one that knows the difference between a driver’s phone and passengers’ phones.

Rockefeller seemed to recognize that perhaps the only thing more dangerous than texting while driving is trying to take the media spotlight from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and so let him testify at the hearing on the Rockefeller-Lautenberg bill because Schumer had introduced the Alert Drivers Act earlier this year.

By contrast Schumer’s bill would withhold 25 percent of federal transportation funding from states that don’t implement strong anti-texting while driving rules, a tactic Congress has used in the past to force states to lower their speed limits and raise the drinking age to 21.

A bill, possibly a combination of the two, is likely to pass eventually, given that President Obama just unilaterally banned federal employees from texting while driving federal vehicles (starting in 2010) and even mobile carriers like Sprint support the idea.

For all those interested, Secretary LaHood has been doing rounds in the hill ever since he held that Distracted Driving Summit.  Today he went back to Congress to talk about distracted driving. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wanted information on the dangers of distracted driving, and he was more than willing to talk to them about this issue which he calls an “epidemic.” You can hear he the Secretary’s input on the Committee’s website.

Click here to read the entire article.

TransportGooru Exclusive: Thoughts & observations of Distracted Driving Summit Panelist, Mr. Rod McKenzie, CTO of Intelligent Transportation Society of America

October 5, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Thanks to Rod McKenzie, the Chief Technology Officer of Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), for sharing his summary of observations from the Distracted Driving Summit (See below for Rod’s bio).  Rod was also among of the distinguished panelists that participated in the Summit, which makes this article even more compelling.  Also, don’t forget to check last week’s article by Adam Hoops, a Transportgooru supporter & ITS industry whiz, who shared with us his views and notes from the Summit (he participated virtually, watching and listening to the proceedings online).

Note: Please register your comments/kudos below for Rod in the comments box below.


Last week I had the honor of participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Summit. Our panel was focused on technology’s role in both preventing and contributing to distracted driving. I was accompanied by my other panelists in highlighting how technology can help address distracted driving, and must not be demonized in our efforts to end what Secretary LaHood described as an epidemic of driver distraction.

Over the course of the Summit one of the prominent topics was legislation, with discussion on how we as a nation can legislate and enforce against dangerous practices such as texting while driving. While these bans are clearly an essential part of the campaign to reduce the fatalities that distracted driving causes, the American Automobile Association (AAA) amongst others presented data that demonstrated we must do more than just legislate. A survey of AAA membership demonstrated that even though a large majority of people acknowledged the extreme danger of texting or dialing on a cell phone while driving, many of these same people surveyed admitted they themselves had recently done these very actions while driving.

New technologies such as cell phones, PDA’s, after-market GPS systems, and MP3 players have become such a strong part of our lives that we are apparently not willing to stop using them even behind the wheel. Legislation, enforcement and education are extremely important in changing dangerous behaviors and making our roads safer, but we can also integrate many of these technologies into our cars to minimize distraction. Technologies such as hands-free phone and GPS navigation systems must be integrated carefully and seamlessly into the vehicle driving environment. Displays must be easily visible without having to take your eyes off the road and controls must be simple and intuitive, avoiding the need for hands off the wheel. Conversational voice technology is developing rapidly creating new systems that allow text messages to be read to the driver, who can then dictate and send a response using voice command.

Additionally, preventative technologies are already keeping drivers focused on the driving task, helping to prevent accidents caused by distracted driving. Lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, fatigue detection and other technologies ensure driver mistakes don’t turn into accidents. Of course, these technologies must be carefully developed and integrated into the vehicle so that the communication of the additional information they can provide does not itself become a distraction.

Distracted Driving is one of the oldest new problems we have, and while the misuse of new technologies has contributed to the problem, technology and innovation are also a key part of the solution. The multi-pronged approach of legislating behavior, public education and making our technology smarter and safer is the key to ending distracted driving. Just as anti-lock brakes and stability control have been proven to help drivers avoid accidents, technology will continue to adapt to the modern driver’s needs to provide a safe driving experience.


Author’s Bio:  Rod MacKenzie provides oversight for ITS America’s technical and business development programs. As vice president for programs, he is responsible for leading the program staff and providing day-to-day guidance on program management, project execution, and resource allocation. In his role as chief technical officer, Rod monitors new technologies and assesses their potential to become new products or services within the ITS marketplace, overseeing the selection of technical projects to ensure that they have the potential to add value to the organization and its members.

Rod has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive, telematics, navigation, and mobile infotainment industries. Prior to joining ITS America’s staff in April 2009, Rod was the vice president of advanced applications and services at XM Satellite Radio where he led the development of new telematics capabilities and infotainment services, including real-time traffic and weather, with particular focus on the company’s core automotive business and OEM partners.

Rod holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Brunel University in Uxbridge, England.

About ITS America: ITS America is a non-profit organization engaged in promoting & fostering the  use of advanced technologies in surface transportation systems.  ITSA is the leading advocate for technologies that improve the safety, security and efficiency of the nation’s surface transportation system.