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CEA Not Happy With NTSB

Trade group says NTSB call for ban on all ‘nonessential use’ of CE devices in the car is too broad

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to eliminate driver distraction and is broadening its focus on the use of portable electronic devices in the vehicle.

The issue is part of the NTSB’s recently released “2013 Most Wanted List.”

While acknowledging that distracted driving didn’t begin when people began making calls or texting in the car, the NTSB still says “Portable electronic devices that do not directly support the task at hand have no place in vehicles, planes, trains, and vessels. States and regulators can set the proper tone by banning the nonessential use of such devices in transportation.”

Companies should develop and vigorously enforce policies to eliminate distractions and manufacturers can assist by developing technology that disables the devices when in reach of operators, the NTSB says.

Young drivers are more likely to use portable electronic devices while behind the wheel and therefore are especially at risk, according to the NTSB, which urges that laws, education, and enforcement efforts should place special emphasis on curbing the use of portable electronic devices by these drivers. NTSB urges states to expand anti-distraction campaigns to include banning teen passengers during the early licensing stages.

The Consumer Electronics Association applauds the effort, but says the NTSB misses the mark on the use of portable electronics in the vehicle. “By calling for an ‘abstinence-only’ approach, the NTSB ignores established realities of human behavior, as well as the fact that in-vehicle technology — when used correctly — can make for vastly safer roadways,” said CEA SVP Government and Regulatory Affairs Michael Petricone.

Rather than calling for broad regulations or outright bans, policymakers should encourage the use of the many innovative driver safety technologies coming on to the marketplace, Petricone suggested, noting that CEA has forwarded the NTSB a list of third-party applications that promote safe use of portable technologies in the automobile.

“We look forward to working with the NTSB to enhance safety without inadvertently prohibiting or discouraging the use of innovative in-vehicle technologies,” he noted.

The list covers all transportation modes. There are six new issue areas — distraction, fire safety, infrastructure integrity, pipeline safety, positive train control and motor vehicle collision avoidance technologies.

The independent NTSB has no authority to enact transportation policy, nor to force the federal government to make changes. However it makes recommendations to governments, industry and the public and uses its “Most Wanted” list as a way to highlight change it is advocating for.