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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government


July 7, 2000

NHTSA 28-00
Friday, July 7, 2000
Contact: NHTSA, Tim Hurd, (202) 366-9550

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced two public events on driver distraction that will focus on the potential safety implications of emerging in-vehicle technology. One of the events will take place exclusively on the Internet, and the other in Washington, D.C.

These two events are the latest in a series of steps by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to better understand the risk of distracted drivers.

"It is important that we understand - and minimize - the risks from distraction associated with the explosive growth of in-car electronics," Secretary Slater said. "President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to advancing technology, but safety remains this Administration's highest transportation priority."

The international Internet Forum began July 5, and will continue until Aug. 11. It will provide an opportunity for technical experts and the general public to download research papers, ask questions, share experiences regarding the use of in-vehicle devices and participate in an exchange of views on related technical issues.

NHTSA also will convene a public meeting on July 18 primarily to elicit views on the potential safety implications of a growing array of in-vehicle devices and other forms of potential driver distraction.

A new NHTSA survey found that 44 percent of drivers have phones in their vehicles or carry phones when they drive; seven percent have e-mail access and three percent have facsimile capabilities. An estimated 25 percent of the 6.3 million crashes each year involve some form of distraction or inattention.

At the July 18 public meeting, representatives of the public, industry, government and safety groups will be invited to share viewpoints, information and strategy recommendations to address the growing problem of driver distraction. Further information is available at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/nhtsa/announce/meetings

The July 18 meeting will be held in Room 2230 at USDOT headquarters.

Though more research is needed to better understand the safety implications of new in-vehicle devices, NHTSA Deputy Administrator Rosalyn G. Millman said, "Because the consequences of driver distraction can be fatal, manufacturers of these devices have an obligation to assess and understand the safety implications of their products before they are offered to consumers."

Persons attending the public meeting also may be interested in a related session July 19-20 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. This meeting, sponsored by USDOT and administered by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, will discuss efforts to improve motor vehicle safety using intelligent vehicle technologies. Further information is available at: www.its.dot.gov.

NHTSA has been researching the safety implications of driver distraction for a number of years. Using sophisticated on-board electronics, NHTSA has been studying the relative demands of different types of in-car electronic devices. Using an innovative in-car video monitoring system called Micro-DAS, the agency also has studied distractions under actual driving conditions. In 1998, the agency produced a comprehensive report on the potential safety implications of wireless communication devices.

The agency's National Advanced Driving Simulator (NADS) also will provide researchers with the means to safely study the interaction between the driver, the vehicle and potentially distracting in-vehicle devices. The simulator, located at the University of Iowa, is set to begin operations this fall. NHTSA plans to initiate a major research program on driver distraction using the NADS when it begins operation. Information derived from the Internet forum and the July 18 public meeting will be used to guide this research.


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