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NHTSA Aims Beyond Drivers in Distracted Driving Fight

Safe driving advocates are doing all they can to help educate drivers about the risks of distracted driving. Now, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is turning to companies to help fight this problem. According to The New York Times, LaHood says that voice-recognition services and devices are not the answer, saying “voice-recognition systems for cars — like those that let people compose texts using voice commands while driving — do not meet his standard for safety.”

Our Boynton Beach car accident attorneys understand that newer vehicles are advancing each and every year, coming with more and more hands-free, voice-recognition devices. But how effective is this new technology? According to a number of recent studies, these devices are no safer that using a hand-held cell phone or text messaging device while trying to navigate our roadways. And that’s where LaHood, the NHTSA and other safe driving advocates are calling out manufacturers.

“A challenge for us is that you may have guidelines about a vehicle, but (drivers) can buy a portable navigation unit, stick it on the dash and that device wouldn’t be covered,” said Wade Newton, spokesman with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

That’s why officials are now turning to smartphone companies and other technology companies to recruit help.

Officials see our technology use behind the wheel as being similar to alcohol use and driving. It’s a problem that drivers are aware of, but they’re not doing enough to change their dangerous behavior. Distracted driving has been recently referred to as “an epidemic” on roadways across the nation.

In addition to recruiting help and reaching out to electronic companies, LaHood says local and state enforcement officers can make bigger changes, too. He says we should learn from our past successes, like seat belt use. Stricter laws and tougher punishments serve as a successful deterrent against specific behaviors. This is probably the reason distracted driving is so common in the state of Florida. As you may know, the current law in the Sunshine State allow all drivers to talk on their phones and text message behind the wheel as much as they want. There’s nothing on the books saying that you can’t, and drivers are taking that and running with it.

Although that’s all going to change soon, is it changing enough? According to the Sun-Sentinel, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a law to ban manual texting and emailing while driving. The penalties are light, amounting to $30 plus court costs for a first offense and $60 for a second offense. Unfortunately, this will only be a “secondary” offense, which means that an officer has to pull you over for some other violation, like speeding, before you can get a ticket for texting.

Are those consequences really enough to get drivers to put down the phones? If not, maybe we should remind them of the risks for death involved with distracted driving.

If you or a family member has been injured in a traffic accident, call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez— 1-800-561-7777 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

More Blog Entries:

Florida Teen Drivers Halfway Through 100 Deadliest Days, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog, July 26, 2013

South Florida Traffic Safety: Feds Make No Secret of Monitoring Driving Habits, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 19, 2013

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