Distracted driving is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents in North Carolina and across the country. One primary cause is electronic devices, from basic cell phones and GPS units to iPhones and iPods, Androids and BlackBerrys. Communications gadgets provide constant distractions to drivers who should be focused on the road ahead and the traffic around them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun to push back against auto manufacturers' installation of hard-wired electronic diversions in cars to attract customers. One example: General Motors is pitching its new Chevrolet Cruze by drawing attention to a feature that delivers voice updates of Facebook notifications via the Onstar system. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed skepticism to the Wall Street Journal's automobile industry blogger: "There's absolutely no reason for any person to download their Facebook into the car. It's not necessary."
NHTSA plans to roll out new guidelines next year to regulate development of in-vehicle communications technologies. While consumers are obviously eager for more connectivity and information while driving, the agency wants to fully assess whether the design and operation of hands-free devices really produces safety enhancements for drivers. NHTSA is dedicated to eliminating gadgets that fail to serve a practical purpose for the driver.
Accountability for Texting or Surfing the Internet While Driving
The U.S. Department of Transportation cautions all drivers to consider that over 5,000 people were killed and nearly half a million were injured on U.S. streets and highways roadways in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving in 2009. By minimizing driver distractions and repeatedly educating them about the risks, NHTSA and other agencies seek to reduce the proliferation of distracted driving accidents. Another strategy is pressuring industry chief executives to resist introducing more distracting media feeds into new vehicles.
Unfortunately, sometimes the hard-earned lesson only comes in the form of legal action after a driver has caused serious injuries or a wrongful death in a motorcycle accident, truck accident or fatal car wreck. Studies show that electronic distractions can be every bit as dangerous as drinking and driving, and every driver should heed the call to keep their eyes, minds and attention on the safety of their passengers and everyone else on the road.