Rise in gadgets blamed for road deaths

By Alastair Sloane

The top US road safety investigator says high-tech companies such as Intel, that are spending big on in-car information technology, are hampering efforts to reduce the risks of distracted driving.

"If the technology producers focused more on what is safe, than what sells, we'd see highway fatalities go down," National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman told a distracted-driving forum in Washington.

She called for a ban on all phone use while driving, even with hands-free devices.

"We have got to dispel the myth of multi-tasking," said Hersman. "We are still learning what the human brain can handle. What is the price of our desire to be mobile and connected at the same time?"

Intel, the world's largest maker of semiconductors and computer chips, is using a US$100 million ($122 million) "connected car fund" to expand development of in-vehicle infotainment.

But it says its work on automotive technologies will include finding ways to make such systems safer.

"Intel is working closely with automakers and in-vehicle infotainment suppliers to help integrate advanced technologies into cars to enhance the in-vehicle experience as well as advanced driver assistance systems," said Laura Anderson, a company spokeswoman.

"A significant area of focus for the US$100 million connected car fund is to accelerate innovation for driver and passenger safety."

The US Transportation Department's voluntary guidelines for the use of infotainment and navigation systems recommend that cars be stopped before drivers can enter navigation commands or use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

In 2010, 3092 people - or 9.4 per cent of US road deaths - were killed in crashes related to driver distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

- NZ Herald

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