January 21, 2011

Automakers Asked To Help Battle Distracted Driving

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is seeking help from Detroit automakers on his campaign to combat distracted driving.

LaHood has dealt carefully with car companies whose interior electronics are becoming key selling points.

Carmakers have accelerated their offerings of navigation and entertainment systems to help boost sales, which surged in 2010.

The government is mindful of heavy-handed action taken against industry that might impact business and jobs.  General Motors Co and Chrysler are part-owned by the government after the historic recession led them to federally supported bankruptcies.

LaHood has already held meetings with GM chief executive Dan Akerson and overseas manufacturers and plans to visit executives of Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler, which is run by Italy's Fiat SpA, next Tuesday in Detroit.

He has not pressed industry to address hands-free phone applications or other gadgets that some safety advocates deem distracting and said the Detroit meetings would have an open agenda. 

He suggested that companies could sponsor public service or other advertisements on distracted driving.

According to a Reuters report, LaHood said that "We believe the automakers can be partners and we need their help."

"They spend enormous amounts of money selling their products, which they have to do. We understand that. We hope that they will put their creative juices to work to solve this problem."

According to industry data for 2010, auto advertising jumped 24 percent to $9.15 billion through the first nine months of 2010.

The Obama administration would support a national ban on texting while driving, but LaHood said he would leave that up to Congress. 

Thirty-states have texting bans in place and eight states have banned cell phones use by younger drivers.

U.S. figures show that over 5,400 crash-related deaths and 400,000 injuries occurred in distracted driving related crashes in 2009.


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