Safety Group Wants Automakers to Steer Clear of Hands-Free Devices | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

According to a report by Bloomberg news, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) wants federal regulators to restrict the use of systems that automakers are building into their vehicles so motorists are unable to make phone calls or fiddle with other interactive gear while driving.

CAS filed a petition for rulemaking on January 22, 2007 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requesting that the agency develop rules prohibiting the use of such built-in systems while a vehicle is in motion. CAS said traffic accidents will increase if drivers pay more attention to their personal affairs than to the road.

The systems, which include OnStar from General Motors and Sync from Ford Motor Company, allow drivers to have wireless access to security features, navigational aids and a wide array of entertainment gear.  Moreover, the demand for mapping services is expected to grow to $12 billion in 2009, compared with $8.3 billion in 2004, estimates the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland research company. “Our point is when it comes to electronic communication, we want the safety part to work and the unsafe gadgets to not work,” said Clarence Ditlow, CAS executive director. The idea, he said, is “you would shift into drive and the cell service goes off.”

The concern over technological gear creates a clash between automakers who have been steadily adding electronic features and those who point to research showing the equipment is unsafe.  At this time, there are no federal rules that govern the use of cell phones or other personal wireless devices in vehicles. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and the District of Columbia allow only hands-free cell phone use while driving, while 11 states ban school bus drivers from using wireless phones, and eight ban teenage drivers from doing so.

For more information about this important safety issue, please see the CAS petition filed with NHTSA referenced above.  If you or a family member has suffered injuries in connection with an automobile accident, please contact us on-line at Regan Zambri & Long or call us at (202) 753-4272 for a free consultation.  If you would like to receive our electronic newsletter, please click here.