UK roadsafety advocates alarmed by bells and whistles

U.K. road-safety advocates alarmed by bells and whistles.

U.K. Safety Group Warns of Dangers of Cozy Cars

The Institute of Advanced Motorists says efforts to reduce distracted driving are being undone by the relentless pace of technology and manufacturers’ eagerness to pack more gadgets onto dashboards.

The U.K.’s largest independent road-safety group is complaining automakers are building so many high-tech distractions into new vehicles and making interiors so comfortable they are being turned into living rooms.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists says efforts to reduce distracted driving are being undone by the relentless pace of technology and manufacturers’ eagerness to pack more gadgets onto dashboards.

IAM CEO Sarah Sillars says her main areas of concern are sophisticated satellite-navigation and GPS systems, infotainment systems that mirror smartphones and tablets and easy connectivity of Internet and social media.

The group wants the U.K. to adopt guidelines suggested by the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA.

It says drivers should be restricted from using certain nonessential forms of technology while the vehicle is in motion, and automakers should not introduce any technological development that takes the driver’s attention away from the road for longer than two seconds.

Sillars says these voluntary guidelines are to be phased in over the next three years in the U.S., where federal data shows accidents involving a distracted driver killed 3,331 people and injured another 387,000 in 2011.

IAM says for younger drivers the problem is worse. Car accidents are the main cause of death of teenagers and a quarter of all teen-driving crashes in the U.S. are attributed to distracted driving.

“We cannot allow the same trends in the U.S. to happen here,” Sillars says. “While car makers work constantly to incorporate active- and passive-safety features into vehicles, making us safer than ever before, they are also guilty of making us too comfortable and making us feel more cosseted – like we were in our own living rooms.”

IAM says as technology constantly changes, continued education campaigns are required to reinforce and update current laws.

“Technology could be a great way of helping to cut the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on our roads,” Sillars says. “It would be a tragedy if technology became a reason why more, rather than less, people lose their lives.”

IAM also is unhappy with the main political parties for not making safer roads a priority in their May 7 general-election manifestos.

Sillars says road accidents are the leading cause of death for males and females aged 5-19, and the third-leading cause of death for both males and females aged 20-34.

“The forthcoming general election would have been the perfect opportunity for the political parties to show what a commitment they had to cutting the numbers of young people losing their lives in accidents that are entirely preventable,” she says.

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