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Car meets the Web at CES, raising concerns about distracted driving

Walk into some of the exhibits at the Consumer Electronics Show and it feels like you might be at the Detroit Auto Show instead. For example, Ford has a lineup of cars decked out with the company’s new Internet dashboards that allow you to use Twitter and Facebook from behind the wheel. And there are many start-ups showing off software and gadgets aimed at shutting down cell phone use or making communications safer on the road: Global Traffic Network sends warnings by cell phone ringtones of accidents coming. ZoomSafer’s software locks down phone calls and texting when a car hits 15 miles per hour.

While the convergence of the Web and automobile are on display at CES, a growing chorus of lawmakers and regulators back in Washington, D.C., are calling for legislation on distracted driving. In 2008, nearly 6,000 highway deaths were caused by distracted driving -- with much of those distractions caused by cell phone use. On any given day, 800,000 drivers use cell phones on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And according to a Pew report, one out of three teens admit to texting while driving.

Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood has called texting while driving an “epidemic” and said he puts his Blackberry in his glove compartment to ensure he won’t use it. Federal Communications Commission member Meredith Attwell Baker said she puts her two smartphones in her purse and then locks it in the trunk.

“I just don’t want to be tempted,” she said in an interview last month.

During a CES panel Friday, Peter Appel, the Department of Transportion’s head of research and technology, said his agency is looking into ways new technologies can make driving safer. Location-based applications could make the driver’s seat rumble to warn of an accident ahead. Also at the show, a slew of new software firms like Safe Driving Systems and Txtblocker are showing off technologies that would block text messaging and inbound calls while on the road.

Creating new technologies and making the roads safer, “can be very complementary objectives,” Appel said. But ultimately, “the responsibility of the driver is more important than any action.”

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 9, 2010; 2:16 PM ET
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Legalize jammers!

Posted by: whocares666 | January 9, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

The solution is pretty simple. Simply make it illegal to operate any digital or media device WHILE DRIVING illegal. Including GPS, phones, etc.

We're all driving 2-ton weapons at high speed with only a couple of feet on either side of us or a split-second reaction time away from a fatal accident.

Any less enforcement is a waste of time.

Posted by: jcluma | January 12, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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