DOT/NHTSA Nudging Automakers

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- June 7, 2012

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood Has Released a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving”

Automak­ers are fac­ing a gov­ern­ment good cop / bad cop dra­ma over efforts to curb dis­tract­ing dri­ving. While Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Ray LaHood is seek­ing for vol­un­tary action by automak­ers to address the prob­lem, the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Admin­is­tra­tion is threat­en­ing to seek leg­is­la­tion to make cell phone use and tex­ting while dri­ving ille­gal and man­dat­ing what automak­ers can build into their vehi­cles.

Sec­re­tary LaHood has released a fea­tur­ing a grant to the states of Cal­i­for­nia and Delaware to improve enforce­ment of state laws. The ‘Blue­print’ was issued after con­sul­ta­tion with automak­ers who expressed their com­mit­ment to safe­ty. The Secretary’s plan does not include addi­tion­al reg­u­la­tions – at least for now. Instead it calls on states with­out dis­tract­ed dri­ving laws to enact them, and for oth­er states to increase law enforce­ment.

NHTSA is tak­ing a more hard-line approach, study­ing new reg­u­la­tions that would require automak­ers to devel­op sys­tems that would dis­able cer­tain apps when vehi­cles are in motion. Some in the agency want Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion to make all cell phone use and tex­ting in cars and trucks ille­gal. Automak­ers, through the Alliance of Auto­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers, have already expressed their strong oppo­si­tion to such actions.

Fed­er­al reg­u­la­tors are strug­gling to keep up with evolv­ing tech­nol­o­gy and issu­ing reg­u­la­tions to address changes. Automak­ers are strug­gling to meet cus­tomer demand for vehi­cle con­nec­tiv­i­ty while keep­ing them safe. Con­stant­ly chang­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions makes this task dif­fi­cult.

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