Posted by: David Kiley on September 10, 2009
Ford Motor Co. on Thursday became the first automaker to formally support a bill that would ban cellphone texting while driving.
It seems like a no-brainer endorsement, though car companies are often hesitant to back laws that impose restrictions on drivers. Good for Ford for jumping on the obvious opportunity to be the first automaker to support the ban.
Ford issued a statement in support of legislation proposed by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, that would cut by 25 percent the federal highway funding given to states that did not comply with a texting ban. Ford also said it supports a similar proposal in the House of Representatives by Carolyn McCarthy, Dem. of New York.
“The most complete and most recent research shows that activity that draws drivers’ eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents,” Susan Cischke, Ford’s group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering, said.
Ford officials, though, were concerned on THursday that it’s support of the bill might be seen as actually supporting the act of texting while driving when the Associated Press issued a story with the headline: “Ford Backs Texting While Driving Bill.”
The ban would not affect use of Ford’s in-car communications and entertainment system, called Ford Sync, which allows most mobile phones to be used hands-free. The system can also read text messages aloud to the driver—a safety and convenience feature that Ford has touted and which has been a pop;ualr option on its vehicles for the past two years.
Ford Sync is standard equipment on many models and is available on other vehicles for about $400.
Senator Schumer praised Ford for its support of a ban. “Ford deserves credit for stepping up as the first car company to endorse a ban on this dangerous habit,” he said in a statement. “We are gathering a critical mass of support for this bill, which will give us the momentum we need to get it passed.”
The Governors Highway Safety Association has said it favors a nationwide text-messaging ban. It had earlier said that it opposed such a law because enforcement would be too difficult.
Text-messaging bans have already been enacted in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluding that text messaging by drivers makes them 23 times more likely to crash or nearly crash.