The idea that is safe disturbs David Teater. “If we continue down the current path of enabling drivers to engage in all sorts of infotainment and communications activities, we may be normalizing a dangerous practice that will be difficult to unwind in the future,” he said.
“Cognitive psychologists have looked at this for years — the human brain cannot do more than one challenging activity at a time. It switches back and forth.”
The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a round-table entitled “Over-Connected and Behind the Wheel,” with auto industry, safety advocates and technology companies present.
The National Safety Council has embarked on a campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of cognitive distractions.
Research has shown that drivers absorbed in cellphone conversations only recall 50 percent of the objects they pass on the road.
Teater stressed that the NSC is not “anti-technology.” He applauded innovations such as lane deviation warnings and forward-crash avoidance systems that will help save lives.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it will require auto manufacturers to install technology that lets cars and trucks warn each other if a crash is imminent. The vehicle-to-vehicle technology would use radio signals to transmit information and could prevent 80 percent of accidents that don’t involve an impaired driver or mechanical problems. No date has been set yet for the rule to go into effect.
“We ought to invest everything into this,” Teater said. “Too much of the focus today seems to be on providing drivers with the same features and connectivity as they have on their smartphones.”