Dear Secretary LaHood,
I have noticed with interest that your National Distracted Driving Summit is to be held on September 21st in Washington DC. I understand that transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers and victims will discuss distracted driving.
This is great politics — after all, who could possibly stand in the way of saving lives? But will it lead to great policy?
"Distracted driving" as a concept lends itself to oversimplification. Even the label is over simplified. Are we talking about distractions from personal technology? Distractions from talking passengers? Distractions from stress at work? Distractions from vehicle controls? Etc, etc.
It is easy to look at a successful example of government mandates (seatbelt use comes to mind) and apply it to distracted driving. But this would be a mistake. Seatbelts had no downside. Buckling up required habit, but nothing was given up.
Many of the potential sources of distracted driving provide benefit. There are trade-offs involved. So I would suggest there is one group notably absent from your summit: Drivers. They need to be heard as well.
Clearly, eating, shaving, applying make-up and texting are all activities that have no place behind the wheel. But what about using technology that delivers real-time traffic updates? These will save millions of gallons of fuel — and potentially lives — through avoiding congestion. Should these be banned?
Let's avoid a rush to regulate and insure that your Summit is open to hearing from all sides. Please let me know if you would like some specific suggestions from Edmunds.com.
Chief Executive Officer