NTSB head addresses consumer electronics industry on safe driving

| Monday, January 09, 2006

The acting Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board has issued a plea to the consumer electronics industry to use technology to reduce the death toll caused by distracted drivers.

On Friday, Jan. 6, Mark V. Rosenker spoke at the International Consumer Electronics Show, an annual industry event held in Las Vegas, NV. The event has traditionally been the launching point for the latest in consumer electronics and communications technologies, including cell phones.

Rosenker said the industry had “a rare and dramatic opportunity to directly improve safety” by addressing driver distraction, both individually and in cooperation with government agencies and academia. Citing recent NTSB road accident investigations, he noted, “the driving environment has gotten more complex, making it more challenging to successfully accomplish the driving task.”

In the short term, Rosenker said, there is technology that can improve safety in the driving environment. Adopting those safety enhancements and making them readily available to consumers should be an industry priority, he said.

Rosenker also highlighted the need to reduce the distractions for young drivers who are learning how to drive and for whom the crash rates are higher than for any other age group. He noted that the NTSB has recommended that teen drivers – while operating under the graduated driver’s licensing programs found in many states – not be permitted to use wireless communication devices while driving.

“Novice drivers are in the process of learning a very complex task,” Rosenker said.

Rosenker stressed that the NTSB did not want to restrict everyone’s use of cell phones or other electronic devices. Its aim, he said, was to encourage the safe and responsible use of these devices by all drivers, while protecting novice drivers.

The consumer electronics industry, Rosenker stated, can play an important role in creating systems that give today’s challenged drivers “increased functionality, increased convenience and increased safety.”

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