A lot of criticism has been heaped on U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood from highway safety advocates but he says that he will continue to keep the issue of distracted driving at the top of his safety agenda.
In response to former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Jeffrey Runge’s negative comments, LaHood said that he will not be daunted by “false choices about addressing distracted driving on the one hand and alternative critical safety issues on the other.”
In an interview with USA Today last week, Runge said that the Transportation Department should redirect its focus on more common causes of traffic deaths and injuries.
The agency claims that because of distracted driving, about 5,500 people died and 500,000 people were injured in 2009. LaHood also received criticism from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President Adrian Lund who said that texting bans have failed to lessen the incidence of distracted driving-related crashes.
LaHood insists that motorists are distracted by the use of mobile phones while driving. This includes hands-free calls made using vehicle information and he also listed entertainment systems such as Ford Motor Co.'s Sync and General Motors Co.'s OnStar.
LaHood said that he has a meeting next week with the chairmen of Ford and Chrysler Group LLC in Detroit to discuss how to curb distracted driving. He revealed that he has already met with executives of General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Bayerische Motoren Werke AG to discuss this matter. [via autonews - sub. required]