Deaths from auto accidents related to distracted
driving are nothing new and have been making headlines for years. The federal
government is looking at ways to penalize drivers for using things like cell
phones and texting while driving. So far, there is no federal ban for the
masses against distracted driving, but several states have made their own laws
that ban driving and using a cell phone or texting.
Whether or not the police in areas where bans are
in effect can catch drivers using their phones is a point of debate. Some
people claim that driving and talking on a mobile phone using hands free
technology like OnStar from GM or Sync from Ford is just as distracting as
holding a phone and talking while you drive.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has stated that
the NHTSA will not at this time seek
any ban on hands free technology while driving. However, LaHood notes that the NHTSA is
investigating whether features like OnStar and Sync pose a "cognitive
distraction" to users. If the research the NHTSA is performing proves that
these hands free systems are a distraction more regulations could be imposed.
LaHood said, "We base our solutions on data,
and before I or anyone else gets up and starts talking about 'hands-free this'
or 'hands-free that,' or Sync or whatever, we want to have good data to back it
LaHood said that a study that the NHTSA conducted
last year found that over 5,500 people died in 2009 in accidents that were a
direct result of distracted driving. Ford and OnStar maintain that their hands
free systems allow the driver to use their mobile phone in a safer manner with
Ford's Alan Hall said, "Drivers are going to
have conversations on the phone, read maps and directions, and listen to their
MP3 player while they drive. Ford Sync helps them perform these tasks
GM has noted that it has no evidence that suggests
crashes increase when drivers use OnStar hands free features. LaHood said,
"Until we have some good data on some of these systems, which we're
studying right now, we can't really say for certain."
Consumer Reports would
agree that MyFord Touch that works with Sync on some Ford vehicles is a confusing
and distracting system. Ford is offering classes
at some dealers to teach buyers how to work the MyFord Touch system and