LaHood criticizes driver distraction lobbying push

Jul 07, 2010 By KEN THOMAS , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood criticized a fledgling lobbying campaign on Wednesday which he said would undermine his work to limit drivers' use of cell phones and other electronic devices while behind the wheel.

LaHood responded to a document prepared by a Washington lobbying firm last month that sought to redirect a national debate on . The document argued that the issue had been "hijacked" by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, leaving the auto and technology industries as "collateral damage" in the discussion.

"I was stunned to read that anybody would organize activities against safe ," said LaHood, who has aggressively pushed for restrictions on distracted driving, which is blamed for an estimated 6,000 deaths and a half-million injuries a year.

The document was prepared by the Seward Square Group, a Washington lobbying firm, and said a "benign debate about teens and texting has morphed into a full-throttle assault on ." It proposed the creation of a group called the DRIVE coalition to improve public safety, modernize driver education and promote enforcement of laws and driver education "as the solution to distracted driving."

The document outlined plans to recruit numerous technology, automotive and insurance companies to its coalition, including Motorola, Nokia, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Nationwide and others. LaHood called it an attempt to "rile up the electronics industry and derail our coalition."

Babak Zafarnia, a spokesman for the Seward Square Group, said the proposed coalition was "no longer being pursued" because the group's goal of expanding the debate to include other common forms of driver distraction had been met.

The document said the public face of the group would have been Jim Hall, a former head of the National Transportation Safety Board, who serves as a counsel to the Seward lobbying group.

Hall, at a news conference organized by LaHood, said he had not approved the document and said it contained "inappropriate language." Hall said he would have no involvement in the group because it had mischaracterized his views.

LaHood held a summit on distracted driving last year and has joined with Winfrey to urge people not to use their phones behind the wheel. The Obama administration has prohibited federal employees from texting while driving on government business and banned commercial truck and bus drivers from texting behind the wheel.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from texting behind the wheel; eight states have passed laws barring drivers from using hand-held cell phones.

Congress is considering legislation to push all states to ban by drivers and LaHood said he plans to hold another summit later this year.

Explore further: Researchers jailbreak iOS 7.1.2

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gov't set to ban texting by truck, bus drivers

Mar 31, 2010

(AP) -- The Transportation Department on Wednesday proposed a ban on text messaging at the wheel by interstate truck and bus drivers, following up on its call to reduce distractions that lead to crashes.

Administration takes aim at distracted driving

Sep 30, 2009

(AP) -- Driving while distracted is a growing peril in a nation reluctant to put down its cell phones and handheld devices even behind the wheel, the Obama administration declared on Wednesday. Officials said Congress and ...

LaHood calls summit on distracted driving

Aug 04, 2009

(AP) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday he will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about driver cell phone use and texting, practices that studies - and a growing number of accidents - ...

Ford backs bill to ban texting while driving

Sep 11, 2009

(AP) -- Ford said Thursday it backs federal legislation pressuring states to ban texting while driving in an effort to reduce driver distractions that could lead to accidents.

Stop sign ahead for texting while driving?

Oct 01, 2009

(AP) -- Targeting text messaging behind the wheel, the Obama administration plans to offer recommendations to address the growing traffic safety risk of distracted driving and the use of mobile devices by ...

Recommended for you

Researchers jailbreak iOS 7.1.2

10 minutes ago

Security researchers at the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) have discovered a way to jailbreak current generation Apple iOS devices (e.g., iPhones and iPads) running the latest iOS software.

How to secure the cloud

24 minutes ago

For many of us, the primary reason we use "the cloud" is for storage—whether it's storing email through services like Gmail and Yahoo!, photos on Flickr, or personal documents on Dropbox. Many organizations ...

Scientific Games strikes $3.3B deal to buy Bally

38 minutes ago

Scientific Games plans to pay about $3.3 billion to buy Bally Technologies in a deal that would combine makers of gambling equipment ranging from slot machines to instant-win lottery games.

'Wetting' a battery's appetite for renewable energy storage

40 minutes ago

Sun, wind and other renewable energy sources could make up a larger portion of the electricity America consumes if better batteries could be built to store the intermittent energy for cloudy, windless days. Now a new material ...

User comments : 0