Administration Eyes Way to Block Texting While Driving

Technology to block calls and texting in your car is among ideas expected at the transportation summit.

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A national ban on texting while driving is expected to get a big push at this week's Distracted Driving Summit, hosted by the Department of Transportation. While the summit is described as a fact-finding effort, tragic stories told by victims of texters are expected to prompt new support for a Senate bill banning texting. That legislation, sponsored by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, already has a major champion: Ford Motor Co. What's more, Ford has conducted extensive studies of driver distractions and has just produced a poll that found most Americans support a national ban.

Here is the Ford poll:

SURVEY: U.S. DRIVERS SAY TEXTING WHILE DRIVING SHOULD BE BANNED; VOICE TECHNOLOGY SEEN AS SAFER

  • A national survey released today showed 86 percent of licensed U.S. drivers described handheld texting while driving as "very dangerous," with 93 percent supporting a nationwide ban on texting
    • Despite strong support for a nationwide handheld texting ban, only 42 percent of respondents believe drivers would stop texting if banned. More than 75 percent believe there would be more compliance if hands-free or voice-activated technologies were widely available
      • Sixty-seven percent of drivers said they believed voice-activated technology is a safe alternative to handheld texting
        • The most recent and most complete research shows that distractions that take drivers' eyes away from the road for an extended period of time are a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents
        • DEARBORN, Mich., Sept. 25, 2009—The vast majority of U.S. drivers believes handheld texting while driving is very dangerous and should be banned nationwide, according to a new national survey released today.

          The survey showed that 93 percent of U.S. drivers believe handheld texting while driving is "very dangerous" and 86 percent support a nationwide ban on texting. At the same time, only 42 percent of respondents believe drivers would stop texting behind the wheel if the practice was banned. However, more than 75 percent believe there would be more compliance if hands-free or voice-activated technologies were widely available.

          The online survey was conducted September 18-21 by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates on behalf of the Ford Motor Company. Ford commissioned the survey as part of its efforts to understand driver perceptions related to distracted driving. Ford last week endorsed a proposed nationwide ban on handheld texting introduced by Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).

          "Research shows that activity that draws drivers' eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents," said Jim Vondale, director of Ford's Automotive Safety Office. "That is why we support a nationwide ban on handheld texting while driving and why Ford has developed hands-free and voice-activated technologies to allow drivers to remain connected, but to do so while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road."

          The survey shows that 67 percent of drivers said they believed voice-activated technology is a safe alternative to texting, and 76 percent said such a feature would be an appealing feature in a car.

          The survey results come as the U.S. Department of Transportation is scheduled to host a summit on driver distraction in Washington, D.C., next week.

          According to the survey, there is confusion among drivers over existing state laws prohibiting handheld cell phone use and/or texting while driving. Currently 18 states have enacted such bans but nearly 40 percent of drivers in these states indicated they were unaware of the ban in their own state.

          Research on driving solutions

          According to a NHTSA-sponsored 100-car study conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driver inattention that may involve looking away from the road for more than a few seconds is a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. "A growing number of drivers are using handheld wireless communications and music-playing devices while driving," said Dr. Louis Tijerina, Ford senior technical specialist. "Research clearly shows that manual operation of those devices that takes the driver's eyes from the road for an extended period of time creates the kind of distraction that causes accidents."