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Lahood to address anti-distracted driving lobby

Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood Wednesday will hold a press conference to confront a lobbying effort against his campaign to prevent distracted driving.

Last week, we wrote about a nascent effort by the Seward Square Group and Eris Group to get consumer electronics and other clients to join a coalition to prevent regulation or a new law that would prevent the use of technology while driving.

"Late last week, the DOT and other safety groups became aware of a new lobbying push to undermine efforts to combat texting and talking on cell phones while driving," the DOT said in a media advisory. "Secretary LaHood and the other officials will respond and talk about the importance of stopping distracted driving by continuing to raise awareness, stepping up enforcement, and enacting tough laws."

Tuesday, Matt Richtel of the New York Times wrote about how the Consumer Electronic Association, which did not join in on the Seward Group effort, has been lobbying states and local governments against bills that would ban technology in cars when there are many other distractions (reading a paper map, for example) that would just as likely keep a driver's eyes off the road.

"The idea that distracted driving is bad is an idea we wholeheartedly embrace," said CEA senior vice president, Jason Oxman, in an interview. "But we are concerned with a legislative solution that seeks to ban particular products in cars when some of those products can reduce distracted driving." He points to blue tooth-enabled GPS systems that are voice enabled.

Wednesday morning, LaHood will be joined by former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall, who is part of Seward Square, and according to a presentation by the group would head a lobbying campaign aimed at educating drivers and avoiding new rules.

Others joining Lahood include National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher, Governors Highway Safety Association Chairman Vernon F. Betkey, Jr. and Focus Driven President Jennifer Smith.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 6, 2010; 5:08 PM ET
 
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