LaHood 'On a Rampage' Against Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has got Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood “on a rampage,” he said Monday afternoon in an interview with at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

When asked if the auto industry’s advances in ever-more-integrated tech/entertainment systems — a la Ford’s MyTouch — are getting to be more problematic, the secretary said that he's working with automakers to take the issue seriously.

While acknowledging that entertainment and information systems present a revenue opportunity for automakers, he cites three areas that he believes can “cure” the distracted driving problem:
1.    “We need to use public education to teach young drivers" to keep their eyes on the road and off of their phones or other distractions.

2.    Drivers need to understand their personal responsibility; “they owe that to other people” to stay engaged.

3.    “We also need some strong enforcement.”

His department is running test programs in New York and Connecticut with police there to enforce distracted-driving laws, giving driver citations for texting and using a handset while driving.

“With that information,” LaHood said, “we can go to other police departments around the country” and get them to step up their enforcement, as well.

“We’ll get to solving the problem,” he said. In other topics:
  • LaHood said he would leave it to Congress to decide if there should be another round of Cash for Clunkers incentives. The “wildly successful” program was a lifeline to the industry, he said, noting that a Chevy dealer from South Carolina had thanked him earlier Monday because he had sold 250 cars under the plan.
  • He expects that Chrysler will survive until its new products arrive in U.S. showrooms, basing that assessment on his interaction with Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. Marchionne, he said, “is in it for the long haul because of his leadership, his vision. … I think Chrysler will be back.” Only one new Chrysler product will go on sale before the end of 2010.
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