New cars offer too many high-tech distractions, safety experts say

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While traffic safety experts are increasingly warning of the dangers caused by distracted drivers, automakers are continually announcing new high tech features that allow drivers to connect to Wi-Fi internet and social networking platforms from behind the wheel. Car manufacturers including Nissan, Volkswagen, Ford, and General Motors are offering Wi-Fi connecting devices allowing in car access to websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Audi claims the spot as the first luxury carmaker to offer its customers access to Google Earth from behind the wheel, even as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has begun to suggest a nationwide ban on cellphone use while driving that makes no exemptions for using hands free devices such as Blutooth transmitters. According to the administrations official safety guidelines, drivers should not engage in any practice that takes focus off the road ahead for more than two seconds at a time. The administration also recommends that any high tech features allowing internet access be disabled unless the car’s transmission is in park, but the guidelines do not attempt to limit the number of devices available in vehicles. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, more than 9 percent of all fatal highway accidents in 2010 were linked to distracted driving practices, a figure that amounted to more than 3,000 deaths that year, a figure that some safety experts speculate is too low due to the possibility that in many accidents, driver distraction is not reported. The National Safety Council estimates that nearly one in four collisions are related to inattentive driving.