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Driver Distraction Summit Gets Strong Response

9/28/2009 03:17:05 PM Eastern

Washington - A summit to explore reducing crashes and deaths due
to driver distraction is expecting more than 200 attendees, plus additional Webcast
participants, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in Washington and on the web, said the
FederalDept. of Transportation (DOT), which is sponsoring the summit.

The summit will explore the impact of texting, emailing and
navigating while driving, said the DOT.  

Parrot, maker of Bluetooth devices, said it supports the summit
and noted that 81 percent of cellphone owners admit to talking on phones while
driving and 20 percent of drivers in the United States send text messages
while operating a car or truck, according to a 2008 study by Nationwide
Insurance.

DOT secretary Ray LaHood said, "This summit will give safety
leaders from across the nation a forum to identify, target and tackle the
fundamental elements of this problem."

There is some controversy over the utility of hands-free
equipment in reducing driver distraction. Research from a
federal agency
found that the conversation itself on the phone, rather than
holding the phone, causes the distraction.

 Ford, however, has cited studies
claiming its Sync radios with voice input and hands-free calling can reduce driver
distraction.

Parrot says some of the studies are not specific in what they are
measuring. Some include holding the phone in one's hands with the phone on
speakerphone as hands-free driving. Consumers responding to studies also
confuse Bluetooth with a headset, said Parrot.

"Finally, we have yet to read a study that specifically tests a
modern, fully integrated solution, like our installed Parrot car kits," said
Parrot marketing director for North America Kelly Zachos.

Among the findings in a 2003 study  recently made public by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was that cellphones used by
drivers caused around 955 fatalities in 2002 as well as 240,000 accidents.

During the Distracted Drivers Summit, senior transportation
officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives
and academics will meet to develop recommendations on ways to prevents
distracted driving.

The Webcast may be heard here.

The consumer electronics industry sold to retailers in 2008 about
$1 billion in Bluetooth headsets and about $59 million in car stereo hands-free
kits, said the Consumer Electronics Association.