WASHINGTON — Ford has come out in support of congressional legislation that would institute a nationwide ban on motorists using hand-held cellphones and other mobile devices while driving.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., introduced the Safe Drivers Act of 2011 on June 23. The proposed legislation would direct the Department of Transportation to set a national standard prohibiting such use of mobile devices, except in certain emergencies.
Ford is the first automaker to publicly support the bill.
"Ford endorses Rep. McCarthy's legislation because it represents a practical, commonsense approach to a national problem," said Pete Lawson, Ford's vice president of government affairs, in a statement Monday. "Distracted driving is an important issue, and that's why Ford became the first automaker to support proposed legislation banning hand-held texting while driving in 2009 and why we are proud to support Rep. McCarthy's legislation that will ban using hand-held devices while driving."
Devices that allow hands-free use of a cellphone would be permitted under McCarthy's legislation.
But the Department of Transportation would also be directed to study whether use of mobile phones or other devices could be dangerous even when operated hands-free. A finding that such "cognitive distraction" poses a safety risk could put a damper on in-vehicle infotainment technologies and hands-free phone integration that have become popular with automakers, including Ford.
Ford's Lawson said that the company believed hands-free technology was an appropriate solution, citing research showing that "drawing drivers' eyes away from the road — whether text-messaging, manually dialing a cellphone, or reading maps — substantially increases the risk of an accident or near misses."
"Ford believes hands-free, voice-activated technology significantly reduces that risk by allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road," Lawson said.
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