By on June 11, 2011

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland warned automakers last week that he had no interest in making it easier to use systems like Twitter and Facebook, indicating that integration of these systems could face future regulation. But while Strickland was playing Bad Cop, his boss (and the traditional bad cop in these routines) Ray LaHood was busy playing Good Cop, telling the AP [via The WaPo] that

We are data-based. Our credibility comes from having good data. If we have good data, then we can make a case. Is messing with your GPS a cognitive distraction? Is changing the channel on the radio a cognitive distraction? We’re looking at that now.

You can see the entire war plan for the DOT’s assault on distraction in PDF here, but don’t rush. You have plenty of time. Voluntary guidelines (yes, voluntary) for visual-manual interfaces won’t come out until Q3 of this year, portable devices in Q3 2013 and voice-activated systems in Q1 2014. Meanwhile, the government won’t even have the data on which to regulate hands-free systems until Q1 2012. So, even though most research shows little change in distraction between a hands-free and handheld device, the industry should be able to sell a grip of hands-free and voice-activated systems before the government is even sure of how distracting they are.

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21 Comments on “What Happened To The War On Distraction?...”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    If they are data-based, I guess that means that we will see FMVSS-standards for mandatory installation of screen windows and bug-zappers in all future vehicles before we see regulations on banning mobile phones, or simplified man-to-ICE interfaces…

  • avatar
    tced2

    Let’s ban bugs (“insect in vehicle”).

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I came very close to causing an accident one day when a spider crawled out of my A/C vent while I was driving to work. It was a small one, but it was just so unexpected that I freaked the hell out and couldn’t stop staring at its progress down the dash instead of watching the road.

      Luckily I caught a glimpse of the brake lights in front of me in time to screech to a halt, and the red light gave me time to smash the little bugger. I sort of have an issue with spiders…

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        My mother in law has to keep an epi-pen with her at all times, due to the possibility to being stung by a bee. A bee in the car can be a BIG problem for someone in that situation.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    None of the things on the list should be done especially in a curve. It’s bad enough on a straight road.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Isn’t it the curve that caused the “non-moving object” to become a “moving object” that I’m supposedly reaching for? Seems a dash and console ‘cargo’ net should be first among new required equipment?

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    How about a Bozo Beacon…. mandate a yellow strobe on the vehicle’s roof that activates upon detection of an on board wireless link. At least give the rest of us a little heads up.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    While I don’t have much good to say about LaHood, his statement about being data driven makes sense. But sometimes one can get carried away…just look at the Bloomberg Administration.

    This actually reminds me of when I worked for a parking and traffic consultant in my early 20s. We did a traffic study in Florida, and at one intersection there was a woman who sold sodas and the like from a rolling cart. Truly beautiful, she wore a very skimpy bathing suit on sunny days. What an absolute bombshell. Since I ran the crew, I chose that intersection for myself. I stood with her for awhile with my counters screwed to a clipboard. She was surprised that anybody did that kind of thing. I told her that our company was hired to do traffic counts and provide data on traffic flow. It seems that several intersections had a spike in accidents. It didn’t take long to figure out why. So many guys were looking at this girl instead of the traffic in front of them. There were dozens of cases of squealing tires as drivers jammed on the brakes to avoid the car in front of them. I never saw a crash but one was inevitable, that’s for sure. I missed plenty of car turning counts staring at her oh-so-flat stomach with the “outie” bellybutton. I had to ask her to dinner; I’d never forgive myself for not trying. She smiled as she shot me down…

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I’m trying not to dwell on what all is included in the “Other personal hygiene” category.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    You know,looking at the list, I don’t do much to distract myself when driving as I DRIVE.

    That said, if I’m going driving for more than 30 minutes, say to my Mom’s which is an hour to an hour and a half depending on whether I’m heading from work or my place, I ALWAYS either put in a fresh CD or have one ready to swap when need to but even I don’t listen to the radio much and if I do, I don’t switch stations at all as I tend to ONLY listen to NPR if and when I DO listen to the radio, it’s CD’s and soon, hopefully a thumb drive with lots of files on it so it’s just a matter of a voice command or a few clicks to get the “CD” I want.

    But getting data may just prove Lahood wrong in some aspects of this study and instead of just saying, ALL other activities excecpt for driving are a distraction, it will PROVE to him where some things are a distraction or not before he acts and that may NOT be a bad thing.

  • avatar
    siuol11.2

    I’m not a fan of touch screens in cars at all… I like a tactile feel so I can tell what the hell I’m doing without completely shifting my focus. I do not understand how this is a complicated thing for car companies to grasp (wait a minute, yes I do… it’s probably why they can’t design anything for shit).

  • avatar
    zeus01

    We’ve just had driving while using hand-held cell phones in our province (N.B.) banned, as well as activities such as programming a GPS and changing CDS and the like— basically anything that a cop deems to be a distraction from driving. Which caused me to imagine the following scenario:

    Officer: Do you know why you were being stopped?”
    Me: Uh, no.
    Officer: You appeared to be changing your radio station. That’s driving while distracted at least, and driving with undue care and attention at worst.
    Me: Well officer, what would you do if you were enjoying a radio station that was playing a double-shot of classic Van Halen, only to have the retarded DJ switch to Celine Dion’s “It’s all coming back to me now”?
    Officer: Oh, geez, I’m sorry, dude. That’s an even BIGGER distraction. Once you’ve heard THAT song it’s forever too late to cut off your ears. You did the right thing. Have a nice day, man. Peace.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    What kind of data are we talking about? internet connectivity so twits can post drivers on the road? Or are we talking about vehicle data, engine revs and load, vehicle speed, GPS data like were the vehicle is going or has been? Are we going to have to sign licence and privacy policy statements before driving off?

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Interesting that “reaching for a moving object” and “child in rear seat” are not the same. For me, it’s most often a child or child’s toy that is the moving object I’m trying to grab.

  • avatar
    JohnAZ

    The problem with LaHood and the Nanny Big-Government Lefties in Washington is that they will never stop with just the current low hanging fruit of distractions. Knock off one and something else becomes the low hanging fruit. Eventually we will need an inspection and a permission slip just to leave our house.

    There is only one regulation I would agree with and that is driver training, licensing, and retraining. Do that job well (at the state level) then leave us alone unless we demonstrate carelessness.

  • avatar
    M 1

    The “child in rear seat” figure is a flat-out lie.

    They also missed the critical category that would mark every elderly driver as a threat to Freedom, Peace and National Security: “Obsessing about what the cars behind you are doing while blocking the fast lane.”

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “Talking/listening to a hands-free device” seems to be missing from the list. Is nobody using those things, or has some new study determined that it’s the physical act of holding the phone and not the conversation that distracts the mind?


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