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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 64 · No. 3 > Internet Watch

Nov/Dec 2000
Vol. 64 · No. 3

Internet Watch

by: Diane Enriquez

Driver Distraction Is Topic of Discussion on Recent Internet Forum

We all know about driver distraction. Who among us can say they've never switched on the radio, fumbled for the 25-cent toll, scolded the kids, or finished off that fast-food burger while driving the car? These are distractions. And, with the introduction of new in-car electronics, including everything from CD players and televisions, to the Internet, there are more reasons than ever to be distracted.

A recent survey found that 44 percent of drivers have car phones or carry cell phones when they drive, 7 percent have e-mail access, and 3 percent have facsimile capability. An estimated 25 percent of the 6.3 million crashes each year involve some type of distraction or inattention.

In an ongoing effort to better understand the risk of distracted drivers as a result of this explosive growth of in-car electronics, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored a Driver-Distraction Internet Forum from July 5 to Aug. 11, 2000.

The forum provided a platform for technical experts and the public to discuss issues and initiatives related to the safety impact of using in-vehicle devices that receive, transmit, or display various types of information. The goal was to provide opportunities for researchers, designers, and the public C both in the United States and internationally C to become more informed and involved in these issues.

The site(www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-13/driverdistraction.html) contains discussions on several technologies, including cell phones, navigation systems, and wireless Internet. The discussion areas provided an avenue for drivers to share their experiences with, and impressions of, these technologies. In addition, the site contains papers, polls, comments, and Q&A items related to topics and issues associated with in-vehicle technologies, such as Measuring Distraction, Safety Campaigns, Regulations, and Design Features. Users were encouraged to post comments on outlined issues or in response to papers, polls, and/or questions submitted to the expert panel. While discussions were meant to emphasize safety impacts associated with in-vehicle technological devices, comments related to safety risks derived from non-technological or traditional sources of distraction (e.g., eating, shaving, applying make-up, monitoring kids, etc.) were also welcome. A moderator was assigned to periodically synthesize comments, keep discussions focused and moving, emphasize key points, and offer additional insights into related issues.

Driver Distraction Internet Forum.
In--Vehicle Technologies: Experience and Research.

Even though the forum has officially ended, the site now serves as an information repository that allows users to browse the research papers, public comments, expert opinions, and poll results, as well as access links to other related sites.

Related Internet sites:

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (www.nhtsa.dot.gov)
  • Site on drivers and driver behavior (www.drivers.com)
  • Wireless Week (www.wirelessweek.com/issues/safety/intro.htm)

Web Site of Interest

The U.S. Department of Transportation Library

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Library (http://dotlibrary.dot.gov/) provides users with desktop access to hundreds of technical, scientific, legal, and business databases. Without leaving your desk, you can browse through the databases, search the online catalog of the entire DOT collection, or look up laws in the U.S. statutes.

In addition, the general public now has access to the Online Digital Special Collections , which include historic collections of Civil Aeronautics Manuals, Civil Air Regulations, the Superseded Advisory Circulars System, I.C.C. Historical Railroad Investigation Reports, and National Conferences on Street and Highway Safety reports. These collections will continue to grow with other important documents being considered for future digitization projects.


Diane Enriquez is the Webmaster for the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va. She is employed by Avalon Integrated Services Corp. of Arlington, Va.

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