By on February 7, 2014

 

rockefeller

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, told officials of companies including General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp., Google Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., AT&T Inc. and Apple Inc. to move faster on implementing standards to reduce driver distractions caused infotainment systems, or he will introduce legislation to regulate Internet connectivity for in-car use.

“Why is it so important for kids to drive around and update their Facebook statuses?” Rockefeller said, in a report by Automotive News. “For teenagers, it’s a way of being cool. For those of you who sell cars, it’s a way of you being cool and making a lot of money from that. How many people have died? How many people have almost died?” Rockefeller said that automakers have been putting too much emphasis on providing smartphone features and applications in in-car systems.

“I’m very unhappy,” the 76-year-old lawmaker said. “I’m very nervous, not just about deaths but about close-to-death injuries. All for the sake of outdoing each other and making more money.”

Auto executives and industry trade groups have said that consumers are going to use mobile phones in their cars regardless of  what legislators or manufacturers do. Robert Strassburger, vice president of vehicle safety and harmonization at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said, “We live in a society where we demand to be connected, 24/7, 365 days a year. We have to design systems so people will want to tether their devices to their vehicles.”

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43 Comments on “Sen. Rockefeller Threatens Federal Regulations On In-Car Smartphone Use...”


  • avatar
    LALoser

    We have to have something. Almost everyday people lose thought while driving. In the left lane driving like a drunk, turning without looking…and no signal.
    People can not shop and talk on a cell phone, let alone drive. How many times have you had people in markets just standing and blocking aisles while chatting away? Or walking like a drunk down the sidewalk?

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    I fully support Rockefeller’s intent and hope that it’s widespread among federal legislators because this guy’s serving his last few months in office.

    It’s amply obvious that manufacturers will fall over each other to give buyers whatever stupidly dangerous tech they want in a car. This is a perfect case for necessary government intervention.

    • 0 avatar

      I too support his intent, but the issue is more widespread than just the systems that are in the cars, it is also the lack of emphasis on these things during new driver training that is largely delivered by parents these days. Plus, I suspect that any attempt to legislate this would get watered down through lobbying or never make it to a vote.

      Honestly, if we made the punishment more severe, say an automatic additional 5-year jail sentence if cellphone use is a factor in a fatal accident, it might make people think twice about using their phones while driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, and presume that his intentions are noble.

      But phones are portable. If the automakers don’t integrate technology into the car, then technology users will merely rely upon on their handsets, which could make things even worse.

      This is a radical technological transformation that can be described without any hype as being revolutionary. It is going to happen anyway, and it might be wiser to find ways to live with it than it would be to try (and fail) to eliminate it.

      • 0 avatar

        For once I disagree with you. If the cops would get serious about pulling people over who are on phones, this problem would die down, the same way drunk driving has died down, the same way cigarette use has been reduced. It IS possible to change peoples’ behavior.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Researchers would tell you that enforcement doesn’t work. There simply aren’t enough cops to enforce laws such as these.

          If you want to create change, then it is necessary to stigmatize the behavior so that people choose to avoid it. Handing out tickets, by itself, is ineffective, as our experience with the 55 mph speed limit made clear. Ultimately, these laws don’t work without our consent.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          I would believe that it might work, but I also share some of PCH’s misgivings about tickets.

          If you could actually enforce it on people with an eye on changing behavior rather than just revenue enhancement or even enforcement for enfacement sake, I would support a test program.

          Embarrassment works, and it is stigmatizing. How about only pull over people you have caught on camera driving badly? Then, put the embarrassing video and picture on You Tube in addition to a fine.

          If you do that, instead of going just going after the money, then you might change behavior in a positive way. If you let the jurisdictions just use it as another revenue source, then everyone will rightly make the excuse that its not really bad behavior, and just avoid getting caught.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            What’s needed is the equivalent of the social advocacy side of MADD.

            DUI levels are down largely because it is now considered to be anti-social behavior. More people are policing themselves because they don’t want their peer groups to think badly of them. It is no longer entertaining or seen as relatively harmless to stumble to ones car and then drive erratically while drunk.

            We have two generations who have spent their lives attached to mobile phones. We’re going to need to start drawing lines between when it is acceptable to use them, and when it isn’t.

          • 0 avatar
            Hillman

            My concern with MADD is that while the original mission is noble, they seem to be going way too far IMHO. Also, The main concern should be to help make the infotainment systems better. Why the hate for using a phone while driving is vilified but using a infotainment system is okay is beyond me.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        The problem with regulating phones in cars is that this should have been done in the 1980’s or early 1990’s when the technology was just becoming commonplace. Today we have a situtation where people have been using phones in cars for decades, and many have been using phones in cars for as long as they have been driving. In this context people believe it is their right to use a phone while driving.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          That just means a change would be more painful, not less possible.

          I personally believe the ideal solution is through the phone, not the car. If your phone locks you out when you drive, ALL other tech & behavioral issues go away.

  • avatar
    tmaestro

    Since when do senators do things for altruistic reasons? He’s probably just publicly extorting the mentioned companies for their lobbyists’ “donations.”

  • avatar
    vvk

    Good man.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The latest frontier of fright for politicians to save us from. Cherry picking this kind of stuff is the low hanging fruit of politics.

  • avatar

    I personally feel that handsfree bluetooth should be STANDARD in every single car built. Rather than forcing the automotive companies into ridiculous – and mostly unreachable CAFE standards (just so you can tax them) why not implement intelligent safety features STANDARD such as bluetooth hands free, ultrasonic front/rear park sensors and a rear view camera that is viewed through either the rear view mirror or touchscreen?

    • 0 avatar

      talking or texting, whether hands-free or not, takes the driver’s attention away from the road, and thus is not safe, especially in crowded parts of the country. (If you’re on the interstate in southern Utah, or northern Arizona, you’re not that likely to get into trouble, it’s true.)

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        Unless it’s the roughly 15 mile section of I-15 running through the Virgin River gorge. Between the constant esses and checking out the amazing scenery, you’d be a fool to try and text at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I for one would rather everyone just get off their ******* phones. If they could do that, there’s no need for any connectivity.

      I’ve never paired a phone to a car. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve wanted to. For me, it’s as worthwhile as putting an espresso machine in a car.

  • avatar
    sandmed

    “All for the sake of outdoing each other and making more money” – the irony is rich hearing a Rockefeller say that..

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      All the more reason to follow his lead. Pols with lots of family money don’t scare me, they have much less reason to heed lobbyists demands. I’d mandate mobile phone giving off a busy signal inside a car that still in motion, because the driver IS busy already, driving safely.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Not sure what the answer is either. Maybe massive (like 5+ grand) fines if it’s found your cell phone has been active anywhere within the time frame of any accident. As I’m sure many people have noticed, it seems like a hell of a lot of the driving public drives around staring at their crotch. We all know what they’re doing, and it’s not sexual.

    I never worried much about drunk drivers but then again we never had 80% of the population drinking and driving.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Question for the B&B:
    has anyone been in Europe lately? Is texting-while-driving as pervasive as here?
    I would be scared sh!tless at someone texting at autobahn speeds.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    It has always struck me as incongruous that a guy with the surname “Rockefeller” represented West Virginia, of all places.

    The learneed Senator’s statement has some nice weasel words in it: notice how he includes not just fatalities but people who “almost died.” Actually, Senator, with due respect, you should have the answers to those rhetorical questions before you go stomping in with some more “save us from ourselves” regulation. For example, how are we going to distinguish between “texting” and, say, operating your navigation system, which also requires text entry? “Oh, well, we just disable the nav system from accepting inputs while the car is moving, and that will fix that problem you say?” Really? In the pre nav system days, how many times have you seen a driver trying to read a roadmap in his lap, looking for the next turn in his route? I have, a lot.

    I wonder how much the learned Senator – with a name like Rockefeller — has actually driven himself around the state he purports to represent? For the most part, anyone who can text and not run off the road into a ditch or over a cliff in West Virginia has my utmost respect . . . because that’s the way most roads are in that state, other than a handful of Interstates that carry mostly people from elsewhere just passing through. Is there a great clamor from Charlestown, or Wheeling or Parsons to get rid of texting? Somehow I doubt it.

    The more effective way to do this is for the states really concerned about this to define as negligence per se, any driver who is found to be texting (including entering phone numbers into a cell phone) at the time of an accident. Make it a traffic offense like DUI or reckless driving.

    Or — God forbid — just trust people to use their common sense, even though some of them will not do so.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Other than the ad hominem (or should it be ad nomenem?) I agree. Get the facts right before running around screaming about how we must do something. The case ought to be 5,000 pages of transparent, objective research and the legislation 500 words of easily understood English.

    • 0 avatar

      Rockefeller is talking about people who have been maimed. Yes, it’s possible to be hurt in a crash in such a way that you might as well be dead. Traumatic brain injury ranges from very inconvenient (losing 5-10 points of IQ) to awful. A parental friend who was a Harvard prof had a traumatic brain injury from a crash. He ended up with the mentality of maybe a 4 year old. His wife nursed him, basically took care of him for 10 years until he died.

      I once met a young woman who had received a TBI when a drunk had hit her. She was beautiful, and it was obvious from what she said about herself that she had once been very talented in a number of ways. But she was living very marginally, because she no longer could make much of a living.

      I once tried to find out how many TBIs are caused annually by car crashes. Was unable to get anything out of the gov’t or other safety agencies.

      • 0 avatar
        LALoser

        A friends son was killed by a girl texting. He had pulled off the road to talk on his cell,she came along in a truck after a few minutes and took out the entire side of his car. Killing him at the scene. Both were in high school. One life gone, another ruined.

    • 0 avatar
      69firebird

      The only problem with common sense is that it isn’t.

      Your phone call isn’t as important as you’d like to believe it is.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “How many people have died? How many people have almost died?”

    I’ll bite, how many?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      THINK OF THE CHILDREN!! (Including the children who almost died.) We need to commission a study to determine how many people almost died and then study this issue some more.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Honestly, I don’t really care that much about the deaths. They are a small number. What I care about are all the stupid fender benders and other property damage accidents even with no injuries. I have been rear-ended twice in the past 10 years by women on cell phones, and had the front end ripped off my Saab by a guy in a big truck pulling into the parking space ahead of me while yacking on the phone. No injuries, but a huge PITA and a reduction in value of my property.

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        About 10 years ago I was T-boned by a flat bed tow truck driver who readily admitted to the cops at the scene that he was yacking on his cell phone and ran right thru a red light on a main road crossing the highway I was on……I was very lucky I wasn’t killed. You needn’t ask where I stand on this issue.

  • avatar
    countymountie

    Finally, someone from the government has the guts to take on those cruel capitalists and save me from their abuses, not to mention saving me from myself…

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    I think the first step is if auto makers returned to stereos that one can change the radio station and volume with knobs, instead of a touchscreen. And hvac controls that use knobs rather than buttons or a touchscreen.

    Simpler is better. Less is more.

    What is really the point of being able to update your facebook status in your car? Seriously, after the second or third time who’s going to do that again?

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Peak Government

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Yes, that was the bell ringing the top is in on obtrusive, overbearing, idiotic government, things are going to get better from here on out.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Sen. Rockefeller: before you pass a law to get our phones out of our cars, you should pass a law to get the NSA out of our phones.


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