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Ford Supports Ban For Handheld Texting While Driving

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Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

Texting while driving, by Flickr user ericathompson

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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.

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Comments (7)
  1. I'm just curious. Can anyone put forward a valid argument as to why there shouldn't be a ban on texting while driving?
     
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  2. Tom, it's been one of those states' rights issues until recently, when the evidence -- at least regarding the physical act of texting -- overwhelmingly suggests that it's causing excess injuries and fatalities. The Governors Highway Safety Association has now even come out for it.
     
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  3. Huge opportunity for maybe Motorola or LG, who are also-rans in the handset market, to come up with a voice-to-txt solution that is easy to use.
     
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  4. As an addendum to this piece--
    Spokesman Wes Sherwood stresses that Ford is also in agreement with a statement made above -- that the best option for safety is to refrain from talking or texting at all while driving. The automaker remains one of the most dedicated companies toward driver-distraction research, using its VIRTTEX driving simulation lab -- which we hope to visit sometime in the near future -- to study these issues.
     
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  5. What? Sorry, couldn't understand, I was making a left turn across two lanes of traffic.
     
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  6. In all seriousness, good question, Tom -- and good to see you still hanging around TCC. Aside from personal rights -- don't know if New Hampshire, say, would go along on a state by state basis--but what do you do when telematics lets you "text" by voice? And does Ford want talking and texting off the radar at the expense of losing the profit-heavy SYNC system?
     
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  7. 80% percent of all rear end collisions are caused by driver inattention, following too closely, external distraction (talking on cell phones, shaving, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio or CD player, kids, texting, etc.) and poor judgement. I don't think there's a way to stop the madness so I got one of these sparebumper.com
     
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