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According to NHTSA, there were 3,092 deaths related to distracted driving in 2010

Automakers and the U.S. government are going head-to-head over the installation of Internet-enabled devices in automobiles despite safety-related concerns.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has recently expressed concerns over distracted driving, where drivers are using internet-enabled devices (both in-vehicle and not) in their cars instead of focusing on the road.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is a major advocate of the anti-distracted driving campaign, and even proposed the first-ever distracted driving guidelines in February 2012, which challenged automakers to cut the number of in-vehicle entertainment and information electronics. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued these guidelines, which offer criteria for the kinds of electronic devices and number of devices that can be used within a vehicle.

Despite the government's concerns over safety, automakers are not pulling the plug on in-vehicle electronics. In fact, it looks as if automakers are increasing the number of Internet-enabled in-vehicle devices in order to attract new buyers.

For instance, Volkswagen AG's Audi has said that it is the first to provide in-vehicle access to Google Earth and Wi-Fi. Others, including Ford, General Motors and Nissan have advertised vehicles that have easier access to Google, Facebook and Twitter. Such vehicles are already hitting showrooms.

Automakers are able to do this despite the guidelines that LaHood proposed because the guidelines have not recommended exact limits on in-vehicle devices. LaHood isn't looking to cut technology out of vehicles completely, as he demonstrated in December 2011 when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) tried to ban hands-free calls while driving. LaHood said he wouldn't back it, since the driver can still keep their hands on the wheel.

However, the fact that automakers are continuously adding more distracting technology is what worries LaHood and other transportation officials.

"When you're behind the wheel of a car, anything that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel can be deadly," said LaHood in a statement. "We don't have to choose between safety and technology, but while these devices may offer consumers new tools and features, automakers have a responsibility to ensure they don't divert a driver's attention away from the road."

Automakers say they're working on devices that only require a small amount of driver's attention, like voice recognition. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers even said that drivers are going to use technology in their vehicles whether its in-vehicle or gadgets that weren't meant for autos like smartphones and tablets, so creating safer in-vehicle devices is a better alternative.

Comments are due on LaHood's distracted driving guidelines today. According to NHTSA, there were 3,092 deaths related to distracted driving in 2010.

"If the auto manufacturers focused as much on safety as they do on marketing their products, we would save a lot of lives," said Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairman.

Source: The Detroit News

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By maven81 on 5/21/2012 10:31:20 AM , Rating: 2
I'm totally with you, there should be mandatory retesting, and the testing should be harder as well. You almost get the impression that some people got their license just by being asked to drive in a circle.
But I would say that while indecisiveness is a problem being impatient is too. The idiots that try to save 5 seconds by racing to cut off several cars in front of them create a lot of the traffic, by making everyone else slow down abruptly. Then there's my personal favorite, trying to squeeze into the exit at the last second by outrunning an entire column of cars and trying to merge in at the entrance.

Now couple these bad drivers with more distractions and that's a recipe for disaster.

By Iaiken on 5/21/2012 12:12:32 PM , Rating: 4
The problem isn't the testing, the problem is the lack of ANY form of real training...

A scared driver will still pass a test because of the way that it is conducted, the real problem is that the vast majority of drivers never bother to improve upon their driving skills. They don't even think about why that improvement is necessary when they are piloting between 1-4 tons of metal glass and plastic that is hurtling down the road. Hell, many drivers are too cheap or too stupid to even change their tires before they are completely worn and that is their only means of contact with the road surface.

My drivers education included training on dry, wet and frozen skid pad and gravel complete with obstacles (cones, Styrofoam pop outs and empty boxes). When you are doing your 120kph-0 braking test, a wall of boxes will get your adrenaline going even though you know it can't hurt you. I learned what it is like to drive on ice with all seasons vs snow and ice tires, I learned what it is like to drive on worn tires (scary as hell) vs middle of service life tires in the wet and dry.

The current drivers testing systems are an out-and-out joke and should be replaced with a driver training program, if you pass training, you can drive. If you can afford a $3,000-10,000 car, you can afford $600 worth of training. All of the countries with the best drivers (Germany, Finland, Sweeden, Spain) all have mandatory driver training in common.

Hell, the German government recently cited this training as the primary reason why the unlimited autobahns work so well. If you want to do away with speed limits (I would love to), first you have to bring the baseline skill levels up to where people can handle those speeds.

By maven81 on 5/21/2012 12:23:42 PM , Rating: 2
What you say is absolutely true. But there would also need to be a standardized system. Part of the problem is that different states have different quality testing. You can convert your out of state license (or even international license) to the current state's license without ever taking another test. That means that someone that got a license in a place where they ask you to drive around the block, can automatically get a license in say NYC where defensive driving is the rule not the exception. That should not be possible. You should be tested in the environment you're going to be exposed to.

By Samus on 5/21/2012 12:52:36 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how they determine the cause of death is distracted driving when they're dead...

By kfonda on 5/21/2012 1:10:30 PM , Rating: 3
I wonder how they determine the cause of death is distracted driving when they're dead...

They used some of the stimulus money to set up a contract with "The Dionne Warwick Psychic Friends Network". Just wish they would have done it before the Solyndra deal. :-)

By Nfarce on 5/21/2012 1:32:29 PM , Rating: 1
You should be tested in the environment you're going to be exposed to.

That's half the problem with Atlanta drivers now. They get their license in a parking lot. They do not get out on the freeways driving 70+mph just to keep up with traffic (if you drive 55 around Atlanta's interstate freeways, you'll get mowed down...even in the right lane). If you live in a smaller town, "parking lot" licenses are fine and you can gradually learn on those two and divided four lane country roads (as many of us did growing up).

Many parents in ATL are spending the money to put their teens in a private driving school curriculum. Now those schools do get the students on the interstates and freeway speeds. One incentive for this is a reduction in insurance rates for said new driver that graduates from a certified driving school, which can offset the cost (in the state of GA anyway). It's a win-win.

By Reclaimer77 on 5/21/12, Rating: -1
By JediJeb on 5/21/2012 3:15:46 PM , Rating: 2
I will have to disagree with you on this one, though I often do agree with you on other things. That $600 fee would still be about half what it costs in many other countries to get a license and the testing/training here is terribly inadequate in most places. I know I learned how to drive by blasting around the fields in the old farm truck and could handle it better than most dirt track drivers by the time I got my license, but not many have that opportunity to learn handling in extreme conditions when learning to drive.

I also would not say it is a tiny minority that are problem drivers either. I have to put up with those ever day even here in a small town who think they are racing in the Daytona 500 just going through town to work in the mornings. One section is a turn lane on the right side that ends quickly, yet everyone tries to race up it and crowd in just to get a few spots ahead in the line. If they only realized as I do after watching them and timing it, that being total horse's you know whats cutting in front of everyone actually saves them at most 3 seconds through the lights in town. Too many drivers with the attitude that the road belongs to only them that causes so many problems.

By Reclaimer77 on 5/21/2012 3:36:55 PM , Rating: 2
Accident rates are steadily going down, so are crash fatalities and serious injury rates. Why now do we need to institute an arbitrary $600 "driver training" program?

So basically while adding millions more cars/drivers to our roads, we've also made DRAMATIC improvements in transportation safety. Statistically speaking, drivers have never been MORE competent and safe in this country than they are now.

Obviously in places like Germany I can see the merit in such a program. However in America, where the speed limit is usually 55 MPH, that kind of training is just unnecessary.

Too many drivers with the attitude that the road belongs to only them that causes so many problems.

Exactly. It's a social/attitude problem. We shouldn't be using Government mandated training to curb social behaviors. How would training people to drive on dirt, as you say, or snow or 120-0 KPH braking weed out aggressive driving behavior exactly? It's not.

It's just sad that every time someone observes a problem, or potential one, the first thing out of their mouths is a Government solution or a host of new laws. Enough already.

By JediJeb on 5/22/2012 5:54:08 PM , Rating: 2
I don't like increased regulations myself, I have to work under tons of them every day since my laboratory works in the environmental field and we have to put up with EPA regs. The problem is, if it is a social/attitude problem, how do we fix it?

By FITCamaro on 5/21/2012 7:03:33 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed that $600 is laughable.

But I do think that the majority of drivers in this country are largely incompetent. They get by because they're smart enough not to want to run into people and because there aren't enough cops to pull them over for every infraction.

By TheEinstein on 5/21/2012 12:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
Heh... scared drivers exist even in proffessional driver ranks.

I am a semi truck driver and I am not afraid. But just last night I passed another semi and when it was safe I pulled in front of him. He freaked out, went to the left lane and stayed there forcing two drivers to pass on his right.

But the scared car drivers make me laugh the most.

The other night a car would not let me pass.. kept speeding up significantly when I would catch up and try. Finally a three lane portion of the highway started and I was in the left lane he went to the right.

So I did what the law requires me to and moved to the center lane. I could not see his face, but I imagine his eyes bugged out as he starts grinding his breaks... lol... he was never in danger at all.

The real problem, as noted, is those drivers seeking a new hole. While agressive driving can save you time... it creates the problem for which it is the cure. When no one changes lanes traffic moves smooth. When people change lanes for advantage traffic recoils and slows.

Btw the NTISB and Ray LaHood having two opinions on hands free is 'bubble' floating. They want a full ban but they don't want a backlash. So they float a bubble to start the ball rolling. Eventually they want it, this is just stage one.

Btw for the record 5k deaths is acceptible to me so long as we keep it there for a reasonable cost to society. We can never end death and trying to do so will make s bankrupt. Death is always a sad thing... you cannot fix stupid (though you can vote him out!)

I eagerly await the day Ray LaHood is out of the Department of Transportation. I feel I need to eventually get the proper degrees (symbolically ofc) and be enough of a politician that I get appointed to the DoT just so I can fix the damage he has done.

By drycrust3 on 5/21/2012 5:27:22 PM , Rating: 2
Btw for the record 5k deaths is acceptible to me so long as we keep it there for a reasonable cost to society.

To me, this attitude is wrong. We should be aiming for a death toll of nil. Sure, it isn't going to happen this year, or next year, or this decade, but that is what we all should be aiming at.
Remember Deeming, the "car reliability" guy? He was the one that made the whole of the car industry produce reliable cars. When he started everyone told him he was crazy, that cars broke down and that was that, you couldn't change it or the cost would be too high. 40 years later, we buy reliable cars and we wouldn't accept anything but a reliable car.
The reason cars break down is largely because of parts having too looser tolerances, and what Deeming did was get all the components in a car built to tight tolerances.
The same needs to happen with our driving, we all need to get used to driving with tight tolerances. For example, if the speed limit is 50 km/hr, we should all be driving at that speed.
This is why speed cameras and red light cameras work and drink driving campaigns work: they pick out those who are driving outside of the standard deviation. These are the people that cause accidents.
There is no "silver bullet" to having a road toll of nil, rather there are lots of bits to the solution.
LaHood is absolutely right, your job when driving is to drive, not to fiddle with this or that.

By Schrag4 on 5/22/2012 1:32:14 AM , Rating: 2
To me, this attitude is wrong. We should be aiming for a death toll of nil. Sure, it isn't going to happen this year, or next year, or this decade, but that is what we all should be aiming at.

It'll never happen. Even if we completely automate cars so that there are no human factors involved in driving, mechanical, sensor, and/or software failures will cause fatal accidents. Furthermore, nobody is saying we shouldn't strive reduced fatalities. We're just saying that we acknowledge that zero is impossible, and at some point diminishing returns means that the number of lives saved is not worth the added expense. Let's pretend you and everyone else could pay an extra 5 dollars (let's say in taxes) to bring that number down to 2500 deaths. Would it be worth it? How about if another 25 bucks saved another 500 lives? Seems like a sweet deal to me, I mean it's only money! How about if another 100 dollars gets you another 50 lives? How can 50 lives not be worth 100 dollars to you, as an individual? That's only 2 dollars per life! The next 10 lives will cost you 500 bucks. Still worth it? The next 5 are 1000. Keep in mind, the number of deaths will still never be zero. You get the picture...

By 440sixpack on 5/21/2012 3:23:43 PM , Rating: 2
You almost get the impression that some people got their license just by being asked to drive in a circle.

That was very close to all I had to do (well it was on roads, but yeah, straight, turn, straight, turn, straight, turn, straight, turn, straight, three point turn and we're done). :-)

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