man-with-laptop-in-car-4As the New York Times reports, ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is still vocal about the dangers of distracted driving and the seeming reluctance of auto-manufacturers to fully commit to reducing distraction in the vehicle.

In an interview in July, LaHood said that car companies and technology companies must wake up to the deadly dangers their products can pose. He also made a point that voice-recognition systems for cars do not meet his standard for safety. There has been an industry ‘push’into those technologies, asserting that they are a safer alternative than using a hand-held phone, but some safety advocates disagree, as we have reported previously.

Mr. LaHood said he wants to see the technology and car industries be part of sending the message to consumers about the risks. We need to get that same kind of commitment from the tech industry. They’re not there yet, and neither are the car companies. They have to be part of the solution.

For now, Mr. LaHood said, they are often part of the problem in two ways: by building technology for cars that takes drivers away from the task of driving, and by glorifying the idea that it’s fashionable, even important, to be connected all the time.

His comments highlight one of the major problems with Distracted Driving. Polls show that drivers know using a cellphone or other electronic device behind the wheel is a risk, but that they do it anyway.

The responsibility of car companies, he said, should not be to create a cool factor around dangerous technologies.

It’s expensive technology, and only people of means can afford it but it lends legitimacy to everyone else who can only afford a BlackBerry or cellphone to say: “if you’re putting it in the car for these folks, then I can use mine.”

The solutions involve having tough laws, tough enforcement of those laws and public service messages that reinforce the legal risks, plus personal responsibility. On top of that, effective policies at a company level, and technology itself must form an important part of any effective solution.

Mr. LaHood said he would like to see tech and car companies disable the functions that are not directly related to driving when the car is in motion.

At Blank-it, we know that driver distraction should be a primary area of concern for all drivers and employers, one that has to be addressed through policy, education and the use of technology-based solutions.

Blank-it has been designed specifically to address the problem of driver distraction caused by in-vehicle computers and laptops. It is easily installed, doesn’t rely on 3rd party input such as GPS, is fully customisable for different working environments and will help businesses conform to distracted driving legislation and OH&S requirements.