The Department of Transportation is considering cell phone software that would prevent the devices from working in moving vehicles, as "distracted driving" laws have proved ineffective.
U.S. Department of Transportation officials are considering software
solutions that would prevent cell phones from working in moving vehicles,
Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood said at a talk this month, according
to Discovery News.
The comment followed the launch of the department's "Faces of
Distracted Driving" campaign, designed to call attention to the nearly
5,500 people who died-and 500,000-plus who were injured-in 2009 accidents
related to what's being called "distracted driving."
While several states have outlawed texting while driving and others prohibit
holding a phone while driving, these little-enforced laws haven't been enough
to persuade drivers to put away their phones and keep their eyes on the road.
According to LaHood, additional measures are necessary.
"I think the technology is there, and I think you're going to see the
technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones,"
LaHood said, according to Discovery News.
Software from companies such as Zoomsafer, tXtBlocker and iZup can determine
that the user is in a moving vehicle-by gauging the signals passing between
cell phone towers-and disable the phone. However, critics point out that such
software is voluntary and so is unlikely to be effective.
The Transportation Department's new online video campaign works to humanize
the problem by telling the stories of its victims: of 13-year-old Margay, who
was killed when her school bus was struck by a semi truck whose driver was
talking on the phone and said he never saw the bus; of 58-year-old Julie, who
while out for a walk was hit by a truck, whose driver hadn't looked up at the
road for nearly 9 seconds; and 16-year-old Ashley, who lost control of her car
"These videos are dramatic evidence that the lives lost to America's
distracted driving epidemic aren't statistics," LaHood said in a Nov.
19 statement, kicking off the campaign. "They're children, parents,
neighbors and friends."
In a June report from the Pew Research
Center's Internet & American
Life Project, 43 percent of teens admitted to using a cell phone behind the
wheel, while 61 percent of adults did the same. Additionally, 44 percent of
adults said they had been the passengers of a "driver who used the cell
phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger."
government's effort encourages people to uplink their own videos and leave
comments, and will include new videos every few weeks. It will also work to
emphasize the seriousness of mobile phone use while driving, which too few
drivers consider to be on par with drinking and driving.
test conducted by Car and Driver
magazine, reaction times for drivers who
were texting and reading texts were found to be far slower than those of the
same drivers with high alcohol blood levels. Additionally, the older of the two
drivers tested-the magazine's 37-year-old editor in chief, Eddie Alterman, who
has extensive driving experience, and was paired up against the magazine's
22-year-old intern-showed the slowest reaction times in all cases. In his worst
reaction time, while reading a text and driving 70 mph, Alterman traveled 319 extra
feet before reacting to the test's cue to brake.
the fall of 2009, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.,
proposed "The Distracted Driving Prevention Act,"
give incentive grants to states that ban texting and handheld cell phone use.
In June, the National Safety Council released a statement supporting the act,
calling it a "major step in the right direction" and calling on the
Senate to "quickly take up and pass the legislation."
Note: DOT Secretary Raymond LaHood has written a blog post saying some of his
comments about using technology to block cell phone signals were taken out of
context. eWEEK's follow-up story can be