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Government "dislikes" Facebooking while driving

In recent years, it seems that there has always been some large-scale movement aimed at increasing the safety of our roads. First came the campaign promoting awareness of the risks of drinking and driving, followed by the "click it or ticket" seat belt promotion. Now, federal officials have focused their efforts on distracted driving, such as texting, tweeting or updating Facebook behind the wheel.

United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are planning a massive anti-distracted driving campaign, which they say will prevent auto accident injuries and deaths in California and throughout the country. The effort is multifaceted: in addition to the typical public awareness and education campaign, LaHood and the NHTSA are also encouraging car manufacturers to limit the number of social media tools and other distracting devices they include in their new vehicles.

In recent years, more carmakers have started to add social media platforms and other connectivity gadgets into new cars. The manufacturers say that they are simply responding to shifting consumer desires as drivers seek to stay connected. But LaHood says that adding such distractions are not only unnecessary, but dangerous.

LaHood is asking car company executives to curb (pun not intended) the number of gadgets they include in vehicles, and to shift some advertising dollars toward public awareness commercials informing drivers of the dangers of distraction. BMW recently jumped on board, agreeing to create television and print ads depicting the potentially tragic consequences of distracted driving. However, BMW, like most other carmakers, has no plans to reduce the amount of social media updates available in its new vehicles.

The NHTSA may force manufacturers' hand, however, with the planned 2012 release of new regulations that govern the design and operation of in-vehicle communications technology. We will update our blog with more information on those guidelines as they become available.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Presses to Rein In Web Gadgets in New Cars," Joseph B. White, 1 June 2011

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