By on January 21, 2011

Ray LaHood is a man with a mission: No distracted driving! No texting. No calling. How about no arguing with the SO?

He’s now talking to the carmakers, says Reuters. Will he take your car electronics away?

He’s no dummy. “The government, which owns a third of General Motors Co and 10 percent of Chrysler following their federally supported bankruptcies,” says Reuters,  “is mindful of heavy handed action against industry that might impact business and jobs.”

So instead of ordering them to turn the gizmos off, LaHood hit them up for money. According to Reuters, he “suggested” companies could sponsor public service or other advertisements on distracted driving. I’m sure they’ll jump to it to get LaHood of their backs.

Here is another mission for LaHood: It can get downright deadly to get to the car. “While the media regularly trumpets the dangers of driving on ice and snow, many people get injured by slipping and falling,” says NBC station KJRH.

“Walking on ice is tricky at best, even for people who live in areas that see a lot of ice and snow. Injuries from falls can be extremely serious, and even potentially deadly. Safety experts say it’s not uncommon to see many more injuries from falls than from auto accidents after a winter storm.”

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50 Comments on “Walking To Your Car Can Be Deadly...”


  • avatar
    h82w8

    For the love of Pete, can’t somebody find the “Off” switch for this guy!

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    New DOT regulation: You MUST crawl to your car on your hands and knees during inclement weather!  (Members of Congress exempted.)

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    What about texting while walking to your car in an icy parking lot near a fountain?

  • avatar
    Telegraph Road

    He’s now taling to the carmakers..

    Hmm.. You had better re-text that from your Toyota…this time with a spell-checker.

  • avatar

    I am a libertarian and against intrusive government but have to agree with LaHood in that distracted driving is an issue. the Ford Sync and GM Nav screens do cause injury and death. how to deal with that is another question. Ford has a good idea with My Key whereby the car can be programmed to not allow the radio to operate without wearing seatbelts. under such conditions how many teenage drivers are not going to buckle up?

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Okay Buickman, any data to back up your assertion that Ford Sync and GM Nav screens “cause injury and death”?

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      The teenagers will listen to their Ipods/Iphones.  Radio is so 20th century.

    • 0 avatar

      no data, just common sense. and as to radios, perhaps should have said speakers as the kids definitely want to plug in their devices. also as the father of seven let me say radio is far from over. where do you think they find out what’s hot?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      @Buickman, Your not using common sense.  These devices dont cause anything… people not paying attention are the problem.  THATS common sense, and every day you see dozens of drivers all over the place doing anything but watching what the hell is going on around them.  Radios, cell phones, texting, newspapers, makeup, food, drinks, screaming kids, pets, cigarettes, what do you do?  Outlaw it all??

    • 0 avatar

      ok Michael, you are right the devices in and of themselves actually cause nothing, agreed. my point was how to integrate connectivity to increase safety. the GM DVD player in the Nav screen won’t play unless in Park, things of that nature that are programmed and do not require laws from the government telling us what we can and cannot do.

      I was driving in NY a couple years ago and was pulled over, still talking on my cell which is illegal there. i didn’t know it and they let me go with a warning. now I feel their law is stupid and resent gov’t telling me what I can do. still there are factors regarding safety that can be built in…like safety glass and air bags, things that increase safety without forcing me to comply.

    • 0 avatar
      jjster6

      Buickman,

      Common sense tells me the world is flat.  But it ain’t true.  You need to look deeper.  Common sense has also gotten us “Speed Kills.”

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “Speed Kills.”

      Correctly put, it should have been:  “Speed Kills More.”

    • 0 avatar

      Buickman is correct, and the VA Tech study supports him. In the study, in which videos in 100 cars in the DC area recorded constantly for a year, anything that took your eyes off of the road for more than 2 seconds incrased the risk of accident by around 19-fold. The study also cited anything that required multiple steps that you had to pay attention to as being particularly dangerous. That’s texting. It’s also dialing a number. Interestingly, the small number of seconds it takes to dial a number was as likely to cause an accident as the conversation. In other words, dialing was far more dangerous than talking per unit time.

    • 0 avatar

      Buickman,
      I’ve spoken with some of the Ford engineers who are working on the Sync/MyFord Touch system and what they are trying to do is the opposite of distracting the driver. Last year I had the opportunity to ask Alan Mullaly to compare the level of technology at Ford to that at Boeing. He said that at Boeing he headed the team that designed the first all-digital flight deck and that their challenge was how to take a large amount of information and condense it and present it to the pilot in a manner that makes his job easier and safer and that’s what they were doing with MyFord Touch.
      I don’t think that fumbling with a folded up map behind the wheel is less distracting than using a nav system.
      Ray LaHood is an idiot. When he was speaking at the NAIAS last January, the reporters were openly laughing at the guy as he prattled on like he was some kind of an expert.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      David, that Virginia Tech study dealt with cell phone use, texting and reaching for an electronic device (i.e. grabbing your cell phone to answer, dial or text); activities that cause you take your eyes off the road for two or more seconds. No one is questioning that (or at least I’m not). Buickman pointed to the Ford Sync and GM Nav screens (why GM specifically, I don’t know but Buickman does have some vitriol toward GM) causing injuries and death. I’m taking it at face value that these devices don’t literally kill people, so I’m assuming he means they create the same distractions as cell phone use or texting. To my knowledge the VT study did not include the Ford Sync system or any GPS, either factory installed or aftermarket.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      (why GM specifically, I don’t know but Buickman does have some vitriol toward GM)

      Anyone who is late to the party might like to know that Buickman is (or at least was) a Buick salesman, and a damn fine one.  He holds vitriol toward GM for reasons similar to many former fans of GM do.  GM has slowly and systematically killed the brands we loved.  In my case it was Oldsmobile, in Buickman’s case he feels that GM doesn’t even know what a Buick is supposed to be, and I concur.  Buickman also holds hatred toward GMs idiotic sales strategy.  FWIW I agree with many of the points he makes about GMs stupidity.  IMHO he would be the best choice for GM CEO but he says he doesn’t want the job. 

      FWIW Buickman a colleauge who has a 2005 Honda Accord has mentioned that the new LaCrosse has her tempted to visit the Buick showroom.  Her grandmother ownly drove Buicks and her mother only drove Oldsmobiles.  This colleauge happens to be 49 years old and has not owned an American car since the late 80s. 

      I was going to tease him a little after his off handed comment about having 7 children. 

      Guess Buickman didn’t spend all his time in the showroom. 

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      I know some folks that were some of the researchers in the VaTech study.  One of the most interesting things was the number of…unwise…things that people did, despite knowing that they had a camera recording their every move.  Such as lighting up a doobie.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal


      Educator(of teachers)Dan, I’m aware of the basis of Buickman’s feelings about GM (I’ve read his presentations). The specific calling out of GM Nav systems seemed odd to me in the respect that a GM car is more likely to have Onstar Turn-by-Turn than a Nav screen.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Many modern nav systems help reduce distracted driving by allowing the commands and directions to be entered via voice commands, and that is one of the areas where the Ford systems really shine – great voice recognition in natural terms.
      It doesn’t matter if it’s a Ford, GM, Toyota, Hyundai, or Lambo system, if you take your eyes off the road to use it, your car goes the same distance without your guidance while you look away.  The solution isn’t to take the electronics out of the cars, it’s for people to use them in ways that don’t require the eyes to leave the road.
      With the modern nav and infotainment systems you can make and receive calls, control the radio and your iPod, and enter navigation instructions without ever taking your hands off of the wheel or your eyes off of the road.  Still, if I’m doing something that requires concentration, I wait until I’m stopped at a redlight or on a long straight empty stretch of road.  Use some common sense, and the technology in a modern vehicle isn’t dangerous, just helpful.
      The last thing we need to do is legislate restrictions on technology that hurt those of us who can use it responsibly because a few idiots out there will abuse it and become a hazard.  Driving is a risk, and all freedoms come with risk.  I’d rather have a slightly higher chance of someone distractedly running into me than give up the benefits of modern technology inside of my vehicle.

  • avatar

    You’re underestimating his “mission.”  His true aim is to do away with all motorized personal transportation.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    Living is dangerous. So when is he going to stop doing that?

  • avatar

    By 2017, all new sidewalks must include front and side impact airbags!

    John

    • 0 avatar
      Steve65

      The really sad part is that you probably think you’re kidding or exagerating…
       
      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-525785/Brick-Lane-Britains-Safe-Text-street-padded-lampposts-prevent-mobile-phone-injuries.html

      edit: AArgh. Fooled by an internet tale and failure to do due diligence…

      http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/17/padded-lampposts-in-london-not-really-being-tested/

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    While the media regularly trumpets the dangers of driving on ice and snow, many people get injured by slipping and falling

    Slipping and falling (or rather “household accidents”) actually kills more people than drugs, terrorism or automobile accidents.  Mind you, it kills less than heart disease, stroke or diabetes.

    You’d think, then, that we’d spend the money on getting excess fat and sugars out of our food, rather than toothpaste and juice out of our airplanes, or joints out of the hands of stoners.

    LaHood might be on to something, here.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Per the CDC, in 2007 there were 22,631 slip and fall deaths in the US.
       
      In 2009 there were 33,500 automobile deaths.

      Recreational drug deaths are harder to pin down, but the CDC says that 95% of non intentional poisoning deaths were caused by drugs, and the most common drugs were opioid pain killers, cocaine, and heroin in that order.  There were 27,000 non intentional poisoning deaths in 2005.
       
      This slip and fall epidemic seems overstated.

  • avatar
    valkraider

    I still don’t see how he has done anything wrong, for all of you guys wanting to get rid of him or shut him up.  This is his job, to ask these questions and push these buttons.  We should always be trying to make things safer.  Not everything results in a law or a policy…  Also, this article is painting a very small snapshot of what La Hood is doing towards safety in general.  He is also working on pedestrian safety and bicycle safety.  This is not a zero sum game.
    The argument that activity X is dangerous so we should not bother trying to improve activity Y is an asinine argument.
    The way we need to frame it is “We have $1000 to spend.  Where can we spend that $1000 and get the best improvement in safety?  If $1000 saves one life in Activity X but saves 100 lives in Activity Y then we should focus our efforts on Activity Y”.
    I disagree with a nanny state.  But I also know that manufacturers would make whatever is cheapest and sells best – regardless of anything.  So some times it is good to have a little government pushing.
    Automobiles kill more than 30,000 a year in the USA, more than ten 9/11 terrorist plots every single year.  But we will freaking rewrite our constitution and install GPS tracking in your phone and cameras watching every square inch for a threat (terrorism) which almost never happens – but if we ask how to make cars safer people get up in arms about the government intrusion into our freedom to drive death machines…

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      +1 valkraider
       

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      “The way we need to frame it is “We have $1000 to spend.  Where can we spend that $1000 and get the best improvement in safety?  If $1000 saves one life in Activity X but saves 100 lives in Activity Y then we should focus our efforts on Activity Y”.

      The short answer is that we are quickly running out of that $1000 to spend and we are at the point where your hypothetical $1000 isn’t saving 1 person or 100 people, but statistically speaking saving .001 of a person.

      “I disagree with a nanny state.  But I also know that manufacturers would make whatever is cheapest and sells best – regardless of anything.  So some times it is good to have a little government pushing.”
      Aside from helping people justify their jobs, a moving target isn’t necessarily the best target. Cars on the whole are incredible safe now, which each safety “improvement” becoming incrementally less and less effective to the point where there will be no statistical change.
      “Automobiles kill more than 30,000 a year in the USA, more than ten 9/11 terrorist plots every single year.  But we will freaking rewrite our constitution and install GPS tracking in your phone and cameras watching every square inch for a threat (terrorism) which almost never happens – but if we ask how to make cars safer people get up in arms about the government intrusion into our freedom to drive death machines…”
      This is a statistic that people like to bring up when discussing auto safety. As a matter of context, approximately 1.3 million people died overall in the U.S. in 2007, the last year I could find a number for. The difference between the 3,000 deaths on 9/11 and the 30,000 road deaths each year is that 9/11 was a single criminal act in three different places. Using the NHTSA numbers from 2009 there 39,397 highway fatalities for 3,939,708,000,000 (or almost 4 TRILLION miles) driven collectively in the U.S. last year, for a death rate of 1.16 per 100 Million miles driven. Within that context, 39,397, while tragic, isn’t all that high.

      Instead of nannying everyone to death with less and less effective devices in their cars, why not stick with a set of standards and see those fatalities continue to go down as older cars come off the road?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “”Cars on the whole are incredible safe now, which each safety “improvement” becoming incrementally less and less effective to the point where there will be no statistical change.””

      My colleagues in Detroit were saying this for generations … this was the same argument they used against airbags, shoulder belts, collapsing steering columns, lap belts, padded dashboards, safety glass, hydraulic brakes, etc…

    • 0 avatar

      My colleagues in Detroit were saying this for generations … this was the same argument they used against airbags, shoulder belts, collapsing steering columns, lap belts, padded dashboards, safety glass, hydraulic brakes, etc…
      Funny thing is, Robert, those same colleagues were busy inventing and developing those same airbags, shoulder belts, collapsing steering columns, lap belts, padded dashboards, safety glass, hydraulic brakes, etc. Almost every major safety innovation in auto design has come from within the industry itself.
      I’ve become increasingly convinced that the idea that “safety doesn’t sell”, often attributed to the domestic car companies, was never really an attitude within the industry.
      I’ve only been able to find people accusing the domestics of that attitude, but I have yet to find a direct quote from an auto executive saying that safety doesn’t sell. To the contrary, I can show you evidence that the domestic auto industry has used safety as a selling point since the beginning. Show cars had all sorts of safety features and there are promotional films back to the silent era that use safety as a selling point.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      Robert.Walter, while I’ve heard the meme that “safety doesn’t sell”, I heard it within the context of the 1950’s, where a serious accident resulted in the driver being impaled on decorative element of the dashboard or thrown clear of the car. Where the tow truck driver was typically the first to arrive at an accident scene and they were more likely to hose your carcass out of the car than take you to the hospital. We’ve all seen the Driver’s Ed snuff films. I also cannot attribute that phrase to any particular individual; in fact I think I heard it referenced by a historian during some Discovery Channel or History Channel show about the automobile.
       
      I would also like to point out that I’m basing my assertion on the government’s own data, not on some truism I heard somewhere. Cars are in fact much safer than they were back even a few years ago and in general are as safe as they’ve ever been. Whereas a seat belt or a collapsible steering column reduced the likelihood of you being fatally injured in an accident by, let’s say 10% to 15%, newer safety features like Daytime Running Lights lessen that likelihood by .1% (per a Canadian study I read a few years ago. I’m sure it is on the web somewhere) and I’m sure that other more recent safety improvements have had similarly minuscule results. An accident today is far more likely to be caused by driver error or inattention than some design flaw or failure in the automobile.
       
      I’m willing to say that as of 2011, any new automobile available for sale in the United States is as safe as it needs to be. In fact, I would say the same thing for any car produced in at least the past five years. I would lock in the standards we have now and continue to certify future cars to this current standard. The money being spend on statistically irrelevant improvements could be better spent on other things, or better yet not spent at all.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      +2 valkraider

      P.S. added safety often doesn’t cost any money, it just involves smart design.  Y’know, like not putting a big sharp spike in the middle of the steering wheel and substitute an equally priced disc of soft-touch plastic.

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      9/11 was used to strip away many personal rights and civil liberties.  A real American who believed in the Constitution would not have taken advantage of that tragedy to make such a blatant power grab.  Disgusting

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      @Ronnie

      The problem with your argument is that it is wrong.

      The industry are not some safety-loving angels. Obviously they -developed- safety gear – they’re the freaking auto industry! Who else would do it? The question is -why-.

      First, before people understood safety issues, they didn’t know to demand safety in their cars. The market can’t correct for bad products when the public is unaware – consider the recent situation with Chinese manufacturers spiking baby formula with PVC. Your argiment appears to be that consumers just shouldn’t buy poisenous baby food, but if you don’t know it’s tainted, you can’t avoid it. The market can’t correct for hidden danger. It wasn’t until fairly recently that people understood the risks of unsafe cars – until after regulation forced manufacturers to make it an issue. Once forced to implement safety measures, the obvious market strategy is to promote yours as superior. This doesn’t make them nice; it makes them pragmatic.

      Second, manufacurers knew full well that spikey chrome steering hubs, solid metal dashboards, etc, were dangerous. But they felt (this is from a safety article in a late-’50s Pop Sci article) that dash padding, safety locks on doors (they used to pop open even in minor accidents) and other such things were bad publicity. They refused to even add them as options. Why? Putting safety equipment in cars implied that they might get into accidents.

      People don’t consider saftey a priority because of the industry – they do it -in spite- of the industry.

      The situation with the PVC baby food shows why. You say that manufacturers won’t make unsafe cars because people demand safe ones. But I think it’s safe to say that people also demand non-lethal baby formula. Short-term profit at the expense of long-term stability, or political points for an ambitious engineering department head, and on and on. People do irrational things that hurt other people in order to personally profit.

      What’s more, lack of regulation punishes honest businessmen; manufacture cars without cutting costs by using crap steel or low-quality airbags, and you’ll be eaten alive by the people who rip off or endanger their customers. The pressure to cut costs is intense and immediate, and it’s unlikely that a moral company would last long enough for consumers to realize what was happening. I’m in a manufacturing business; I’ve seen it first hand, and lost tens of thousands of dollars in sales to companies who are willing to lie to their customers or skirt the law.

      Regulations can be taken too far, assuredly – but claiming that industry will self-correct is absurd, and suggests ignorance (or willful disregard) of what you get without ‘nasty government interference’ in business. You eat safe food, use appliances that don’t electrocute you if you plug them in wrong, put up christmas lights that don’t burn down your house. You take the positive effects of regulation for given, and then use the safety of products as evicence that it’s unnecessary, like a patient who stops taking medecine because he feels better. Trust me – when you stop taking your medecine, the virus will npt have changed its ways in the interim, and you -will- get sick ahain.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      (Oh – please disregard the rampant and embarrassing typos. I’m writing these posts in 2mm high text, on my BlackBerry. Reading what I’ve written, and scrolling around to proofread is nigh-on impossible…

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      forraymond:
      “9/11 was used to strip away many personal rights and civil liberties.  A real American who believed in the Constitution would not have taken advantage of that tragedy to make such a blatant power grab.  Disgusting”
       
      1. Can someone please name me one of my civil liberties that has been taken away or one of my personal rights that has been impinged upon since 9/11? I hear this all the time but in the past 10 or so years I have not in any way felt oppressed, threatened or that my rights have been usurped by the Govenment.
       
      2. What does that have to do with this road safety discussion?

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      … I also know that manufacturers would make whatever is cheapest and sells best – regardless of anything.  So some times it is good to have a little government pushing.

      Yes, this.  NOT.   You may be too young to remember earlier examples of the goverment’s attempts to save us from our selves and our cars.  Seatbelt interlocks that wouldn’t allow you to start the car. 85 mph speedometers that were somehow supposed to make us safer.

      You cannot save everyone from everything. Attempting to do so cripples the rest of us by making our lives less productive. There will always be a guy who tries to pick up his lawnmower , still running, and he will lose his fingers.  For every attempt to idiot-proof the world, the world will create a better idiot.

      Please stop trying to save me from myself and just let me live… or die. I am not your problem.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Instead of nannying everyone to death with less and less effective devices in their cars, why not stick with a set of standards and see those fatalities continue to go down as older cars come off the road?

      Duh. Death = money. Do you think really think the top brass at MADD, etc., really want to end drunk driving deaths? If nobody died from drunk driving next year, they wouldn’t have a job, income, government grants, fame, newspaper articles with their quotes all over them, etc., etc., etc.

      It’s a thriving industry, man, get on board. With a built-in conflict on interest, no less.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Since people get compassion fatigue to major catastrophes, it is no surprise that all these public awareness campaigns get lost in the blather.
     
    Too many colored ribbons for this and that, too many PSAs with George Clooney and other billionaires ‘bravely’ looking straight into the camera with no make-up on, pleading for some cause to elevate their ego beyond being a scripted pretender.
     
    The phrase ‘raise awareness’ really means ‘my cause is more important than yours’ or assumes that the intended audience is not pursuing anything of worth.
    It would be like assuming that every car without a bumper sticker is being driven by a person with no views, beliefs or passions.
     
    Maybe some driver’s association can sponsor PSAs that encourage people to drive more often and to utilize electronic devices while doing so. See the USA in your Chevrolet while listening to NWA.

  • avatar

    Additional safety equipment does more to speed the coming Idiocracy than to preserve life. The issue at hand is not the pervasive danger of motoring, but the dwindling attention and ability of vehicle operators.
     
    The actions of Mr. LaHood and his ilk are moot.

  • avatar
    anchke

    LaHood consistently delivers his safety message in a way that makes him sound like a meddlesome nanny sent by the government to encumber the citizenry with help. He needs to frame his message in terms of attainable benefits. It’s too bad people slip and fall on ice. I don’t think the remedy falls to a federal suitster.

    PSAs won’t gain any more traction than the 55 mph speed limit. Examp: My state of CT has a law against cell phone use by drivers, has augmented the law with PSAs and sometimes enforces the law with fines. Result: nada. It’s official dithering that people feel entitled to ignore.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Our man in China complaining about the excessive involvement of the US government in the lives of individuals. The funny thing is, he can’t complain about anything the Chinese government does without his internet access getting shut down, or worse.
     

    • 0 avatar
      FleetofWheel

      Even questioning authority in general goes against the grain of the ‘must respect our dear leaders’ tenet of the PRC.
       
      But you’re right in that it is wonderful we can challenge, chide and even mock Bush, LaHood, et al with our only concern being to present a good persuasive case to our fellow citizens and not worry a whit about a knock on the door.

  • avatar

    @John Horner; So, what do we learn from your post? If a Westerner is living in China doing business there without rebelling against the Chinese government he automatically looses his right to criticize professional busybodies in the US or elsewhere? Interesting approach to the topic of freedom of opinion.
    BTW: You don’t need any gadgets to drive distracted, not even a radio, not even a car (ask ancient Romans). The idiocy of today is to believe that the risk (and thrill) of live can be minimized by a maximum of (how ever stupid) regulations.
    This won’t end well. The concept of “accident” is completely lost now, as lawyers and other useless members of society don’t like it, because nobody could be blamed (Wikipedia: “Experts in the field … avoid use of the term ‘accident’ to describe events that cause injury in an attempt to highlight the predictable and preventable nature of most injuries”).
     
     
     

  • avatar

    One way to stop distracted drivers… if you get in an accident and it causes a death and it was caused due to distracted driving, license gone forever. But they’d never go that far.
    Really though, why do people think they can concentrate on moving a vehicle and typing or talking on a phone at the same time? No matter how you slice it and how good you think you are at doing both, one of them is failing you and I can guarantee it isn’t the typing/talking.


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