By on September 14, 2009

Distracted driving is fast becoming the bête noir du jour for hysterical “safety-first” types. Following the standard blueprint for these kinds of panics, the New York Times got pulses racing first with a series of articles aimed at making a general problem (most drivers suck) seem like a specific, solvable “crisis.” Then Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called for a “distracted driving summit,” and the campaign to get America to stop texting and start paying attention to the damn road before you kill us all was well underway. But these things never really take off until a major corporation smells a chance to make money, and signs on. Which Ford has apparently now done, by officially endorsing HR 3535 at its “The Ford Story” blog. But why?

“At Ford, we think driver distraction is a critically important issue,” explains Sue Cischke, Ford’s Group VP for Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. But this is no battle of principle.

Drivers experience many different types of distractions on a daily basis. Drivers are going to have conversations, read maps and directions, and listen to music while they drive. The most complete and most recent research shows that activity that draws drivers’ eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents…. Ford believes hands-free, voice-activated technology substantially reduces that risk by allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Technologies like . . . Ford’s Sync, for example. Does this explain why . . .

Dr. Jeffrey Runge, then the head of the highway safety agency, said he grudgingly decided not to publish the draft letter [to Transportation Secretary Norman Minetta “warning states that hands-free laws might not solve” the cell phone distracted driving problem] because of larger political considerations.

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10 Comments on “Ford Syncs Up With Distracted Driving Crusade...”

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I’ve got this theory that the Distracted Driver thing goes back at least to the point of lighting up a smoke while behind the wheel.

  • avatar


    Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. It causes low energy levels and drowsiness.

    Oh, the irony.

  • avatar

    Another overlooked effect which all engineers and scientists want to deny who are directly on the payment lines from the industry, is the subject of fatigue. It is directly related to the amount of electronic equipment, and emissions of EMF levels on the body. Biggest culprit so far, GPS built in systems.

  • avatar


    I’m quite sure that the EM field from the alternator is stronger than anything from the GPS unit. You need coils of wire to generate significant EM fields.

  • avatar


    In no way can the unproven affects of EMF trump the fatiguing vibrations of the vehicle’s drivetrain and ride. Not to mention the physical fatigue of poor ergonomics and seat design. Pick the low-hanging fruit first.

  • avatar

    Speaking of Ford and distractions, I saw an ad for the new F-150 and it talked about internet access. Just what we need. The contractors talking on their cell phones are dangerous enough.

  • avatar

    Rod Panhard is right.

    Not only was it distracting to operate the ‘cigar’ lighter (luxury car) and then suck on a ciggy until it lit but if you got distracted from that secondary task by traffic there was the opportunity to drop the red hot lighter in your lap. Now THAT’s distracting!!

  • avatar

    Raise highway speed limits to the point where people are too scared to do anything but pay attention. An across-the-board 20 mph might be sufficient.

  • avatar

    essen – You saw an ad for Ford Work Solutions. Basically, it’s a set of options including an in-dash computer, fleet tracking and telematics system, and RFID tool tracking system. Anything distracting locks out automatically when the vehicle is in motion (just like the non-voice commands on a nav system) and it is more geared to allow contractors and others who use the trucks for work to be able to print out invoices, remote login to office computers to check files and information, and run a business while out in the field one’s self than it is for casual web browsing.

    I haven’t had a chance to play with it since the traditional nav head unit is far more user friendly and thus all we order for retail trucks. The Work Solutions setup makes a lot of sense for business vehicles, but it is only availible on the work truck trim levels and at least at my dealership only put on vehicles by special order.

  • avatar

    If you get a text message “PULL OVER U R UNDER ARREST” is that distracting?

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