What Happened To The War On Distraction?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
4 of 21 comments
  • Type57SC Type57SC on Jun 12, 2011

    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.

  • JohnAZ JohnAZ on Jun 13, 2011

    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.

  • M 1 M 1 on Jun 13, 2011

    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."

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Jun 17, 2011

    "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?