Ford Motor Company yesterday officially endorsed the proposed national ban on handheld texting while driving.
With that, Ford is the first of the major automakers to support the bill—introduced by Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York—which would cut federal highway financing by 25 percent for states that choose not to comply with the ban.
A total of 17 states have already banned, or will soon enforce bans, on text messaging while driving.
“The most complete and most recent research shows that activity that draws drivers' eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents,” said Susan Cischke, Ford group VP for sustainability, environment and safety engineering in a company statement released Thursday.
Rather than emphasizing the best choice—of simply not talking or texting at all while driving—Cischke’s statement at one point could be read as a push for Ford’s Sync system, which can read the contents of text messages and operate most phones and some multimedia devices with simple voice commands.
“Ford believes hands-free, voice-activated technology substantially reduces that risk by allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,” said Cischke, later stating that the bill “would encourage a more rapid transition to hands-free and voiceactivated technologies.”
New results from a long-term Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, based on real-world research and released earlier this summer, suggest that the greatest risk of a crash or near-crash occurs when text messaging with a keypad (up to 23 times the risk versus non-distracted driving), and that the physical act of dialing a cellphone brings far higher distraction risk than that of talking while driving.
“This legislative approach addresses a nationwide problem we can all agree is necessary to improve safety,” Cischke’s statement concluded.
Let’s hope other automakers follow suit.