Any Driving Distraction is Dangerous: ASSE

Revised ahead of the DOT Distract Driving Summit later this month, the society's position statement notes distractions are not limited to electronic devices. The statement also discusses technological solutions.

Acting ahead of the DOT Distracted Driving Summit that will take place at the end of this month, the American Society of Safety Engineers has revised its position statement on distracted driving to stress the dangers of all types of distractions -- not simply those caused by use of electronic devices such as cell phones.

"Government officials, the public and employers need more guidance as to what constitutes a hazardous act created by inappropriate actions, which may include but is in no way limited to the use of electronic devices," the statement says. "While the research to date is significant and should be adequate to convince public policy makers, lawmakers and regulators that action is needed, better crash data and other research should be pursued to clarify and quantify the magnitude of the driver distraction problem as well as the relative contributions of different sources of driver distraction.

"Drivers regularly deal with a multitude of driver distractions both inside and outside of vehicles. It is important to determine how to reduce driver distractions that result in crashes by examining not only the design of in-vehicle controls for radios, CD and digital players, on-board navigational devices, and climate controls, but also the design of portable communication devices. For example, new in-vehicle systems or connected portable cellular devices with global positioning systems (GPS) that allow and link phone calls can be designed or configured with an option to force a delay in either receiving or transmitting with an automatic cut-in message that says, 'This vehicle is in motion. Phone use is prohibited. Dial 911 for Emergencies.' Walking speeds (or less than 5 mph/7.3 fps) could be ignored. Design modifications like this are very feasible with current technologies. Although this does not eliminate a host of distractions, it can and will reduce some significant risks, if implemented."

The position statement, which cites studies and surveys conducted by NHTSA, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the Applied Cognition Laboratory of the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah, State Farm, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, and the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, was revised by ASSE's Government Affairs Committee and approved Sept. 7 by the society's Board of Directors. DOT's summit is set for Sept. 30-Oct. 1.

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