Federal agencies are reporting that there has been a drop of about 360 deaths in distracted driving-related accidents in 2009 over 2008. There were 5,474 fatalities in 2009, and 448,000 injuries in these accidents. For the first time, federal agencies also isolated distractions that involve cell phone use. Eighteen percent of all the distracted driving deaths in 2009 involved a motorist using a cell phone. Cell phones also contributed to 5% of all injuries that occurred in distracted driving-related accidents last year.
There is now talk of reducing these fatalities further by banning all cell phone use behind the wheel. It’s a move that has automakers very worried, because it could dramatically change the way motorists currently drive, and could render voice recognition technologies in a car less useful.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association is considering a ban on all cell phone use while driving, a move that would also include voice-activated technologies like the Sync system that is currently in place in so many Ford vehicles. The system allows motorists to make hands-free calls, and have text messages read out to them. If the ban on cell phone use at the wheel goes into effect, these systems could be prohibited.
Not surprisingly, Ford Motor Corporation is leading the automaker tirade against such measures. The company opposes any efforts that would ban hands-free calls. In spite of all the recalls and bankruptcies, the automaker lobby in the US continues to be a powerful one, and it’s likely that any moves to impose a ban all cell phone technology will see a tough fight.
The GHSA can only make a recommendation about banning cell phone use, and states are not required to implement these. However, when an agency like the GHSA adds its voice to those of Los Angeles car accident lawyers to call for a ban on all cell phone use by motorists, it could bolster this cause, and place pressure on states to enact such legislation. This explains all the panicking by the automakers.