NTSB Acting Chairman Urges Electronics Industry to Join Board in Reducing Driver Distractions

January 9, 2006

Acting National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Mark Rosenker has urged the consumer electronics industry to help reduce the tragic toll of deaths and injuries on the nation’s roadways by bringing technology to bear on the problem of “distracted drivers.”

Speaking at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Rosenker said that the industry had “a rare and dramatic opportunity to directly improve safety” by addressing driver distraction – both individually and in cooperation with government agencies and academia.

Citing recent NTSB road accident investigations, Rosenker noted “the driving environment has gotten more complex, making it more challenging to successfully accomplish the driving task.”

In the short term, Rosenker stated, there are technologies that can improve safety in the driving environment. Adopting these safety enhancements and making them readily available to consumers should be an industry priority, he said.

Rosenker also highlighted the need to reduce the distractions for some of our most vulnerable drivers, those young drivers who are learning how to drive and for whom the crash rates are higher than for any other age group.

He noted that the NTSB has recommended that teen drivers, while operating under the graduated drivers licensing programs found in almost every state, not be permitted to use wireless communication devices while driving, reflecting that “novice drivers are in the process of learning a very complex task” and often lack the ability to judge the risks associated with that task.

Rosenker stressed that the NTSB did not want to restrict everyone’s use of cell phones or other electronic devices. The Safety Board’s aim, he said, was to encourage the safe and responsible use of these devices by all drivers, while protecting our novice drivers.

In the longer term, the answer to driver distraction lies in “addressing human factors in all phases of product design, development and deployment,” said Rosenker. He called for close cooperation with researchers attempting to answer basic questions about the driving task and human information processing.

The consumer electronics industry, Rosenker stated, can play an important role in creating systems that give today’s challenged drivers “increased functionality, increased convenience, and increased safety.”

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