Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on December 14, 2011 · 6
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · 6

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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6 A WWW FREEP COM WEDNESDAY, DEC 14. 2011 B1H IAN: Mo. FROM PAGE 1A states to do so. But calls for a broader prohibition on phone use while driving was rejected. The Governors Highway Safety Association, a coalition of state safety officials, said nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones. No state bans the use of all handheld and hands-free devices. NTSB Chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said the recommendation is the result not only of an investigation into a crash that killed two people and injured 38 in Missouri last year, but also of 10 years of evidence that distraction caused by cell phones and smartphones even when they're not in a driver's hand has become deadly. "It may seem like it's a very quick call, a very quick text, a tweet or an update, but accidents happen in the blink of an eye," Hersman said. "We've investigated a lot of accidents, and we know a lot of times the distraction that's there is not just about manipulating something." She said the recommendation is not aimed at onboard communications systems that Detroit's automakers or other carmakers provide. An advisory with clout The NTSB recommendation to states carries no formal authority highway safety rules are largely the jurisdiction of state government. But inside its list of about 13,000 safety recommendations, the agency has proposed rules that have become part of everyday life, playing a role in requirements for seat belts, child safety restraints and personal flotation devices. The NTSB said there is Hands-free phones make sense - Banning all uses of mobile phones in cars would be the most pointless and universally ignored law since Prohibition. On the other hand, a national mandate requiring hands-free phones for conversations in a moving vehicle will make America's roads safer. The technology exists to make safe phone calls from your car. Hands-free systems are available in nearly every new vehicle, at little or no extra cost. Our laws should encourage drivers to use that technology. Mobile phones are omnipresent. Virtually every adult and many kids have one. No law will change the fact that people expect to remain in touch while they're behind the wheel TRANSIT: Officials decide to go with buses instead of rail FROM PAGE 1A the discussions, but said the mayor and LaHood agreed that the city, where more than 60 of residents with jobs work in the suburbs, would be better served by high-speed buses instead of rail, said Bing spokesman Dan Lijana. "Mayor Bing and Secretary LaHood have had numerous conversations and are on the same page on the future of transit in Detroit," Lijana said. Geralyn Lasher, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said the governor has been supportive of a rapid transit bus system for Detroit and southeast Michigan, but light-rail trains are "out of our lane. ... We've always been more in the line of the rapid bus." Both the city and a group of private investors known as M-l Rail which includes corporate titans Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske, Peter Karmanos and Mike Ilitch, along with the powerhouse Kresge Foundation developed plans for a light-rail project to revitalize the Woodward corridor. The investors initially wanted a line between downtown and New Center, while the city aimed to take it north to 8 Mile. The private investors pledged tens of millions in seed money, crash helps spur push against distracted driving A crash that killed two people and pickup, who had been texting, ran a role for some devices used to aid driving such as global positioning systems as well as emergency use of phones, but it needs to be tightly limited Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the group hasn't made any similar finding to that of the NTSB and that more research is needed to determine whether hands-free devices can effectively mitigate the risk of distraction. But he said the recommendation "should make states sit up and Tv-sr A, MARK PHELAN FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC It's the job of government and automakers to create policies and vehicles that operate safely within that reality. A total ban on phone use in cars would breed contempt for the law and saddle overworked police officers with an unnecessary responsibility that would keep them from more important work. It also would be unenforceable: Imagine the old 55-m.p.h. speed limit, only without radar detectors. The police would and after some disagreement on the scope of the project, agreed to let the city lead the effort. The M-l Rail group of private investors sent a letter dated Tuesday to Bing, Snyder and La-Hood expressing disappointment about the decisionbut holding out hope that a shorter, 3.2-mile rail line could still be built on Woodward between downtown and New Center. In the letter, the investors said that killing the light-rail plan would "leave unfulfilled the promise of light rail on Woodward Avenue that we have all stood behind, leave unused all the work that has come to date, leave on the table $100 million in private and philanthropic investment, and leave to the next generation the prospect of light transit on Woodward Avenue." But it had faced doubts, including Bing's decision in September to hand over control of the project to the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., the quasi-governmental agency that spearheads redevelopment projects for the city. The DEGC also was a significant investor in the project. Suburban communities in southern Oakland County this fall won federal funding to study extending the rail line north to Maple Road in Birmingham. AUGUST 2010 PHOTO BY JEFF ROBERSONASSOCIATED PRESS injured 38 in Missouri last year helped spur the U.S. recommendation. Investigators said the driver of a into a tractor-trailer. The pickup then was struck by a school bus, which was hit by a second school bus. take notice." CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C., said although it believes "manual texting while driving is clearly incompatible with safety," it would "defer to state and local lawmakers and their constituents." The National Motorists Association, based in Wisconsin, has opposed bans, arguing there is little evidence they're effective and that drivers should be wary of any distractions from eating or changing radio stations to but ban doesn't have to peer into every car to figure out who was in violation. A ban also would increase driver distraction as people sneaked phone calls, used speakerphones that weren't designed for cars, and constantly watched for police cars instead of concentrating on their driving and having a normal conversation. Nearly every automaker would wholeheartedly support a ban on handheld phones. "Research shows that hands-free, voice-activated technology significantly reduces ... risk," Ford Motor said in a statement Tuesday. There's no turning the clock back. We can and should embrace the new technologies to go full speed ahead. I CONTACT MARK PHELAN AT MMPHELAN eFREEPRESS.COM. Details about how the rapid bus system would be built were not available. Officials said the federal money already granted to Detroit can be transferred to a new bus system. Supporters said the light-rail project had been the region's best chance at a rail-based transit system since the late 1970s, when the city was promised $600 million in federal funding but lost the money when Oakland and Macomb county leaders wouldn't go along with the plan. The decision to scrap the light-rail plan outraged Megan Owens, director of the Detroit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, who said she had heard rumblings in recent weeks that "the project was in trouble" in large part because there was no dedicated source of operating money, estimated to be at least $10 million a year, for the rail line after it was built. Supporters said the light-rail line would spur major residential and commercial redevelopment along Woodward well in excess of what it would cost to build the line. "We're basically throwing away a $3-billion economic development investment," Owens said. "I'm outraged Mayor Bing would let this happen on his watch." using a portable electronic device. But distracted driving is getting more and more attention from regulators in Washington. Just last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled its new methodology for more accurately counting distracted driving fatalities, finding there had been 3,092 in 2010. Overall traffic fatalities from all causes declined 3, to 32,885, the lowest number since 1949, but the number of injuries t r ' -r? 'I ( ff "" , i: Mil:'3M'W!-yWlW'lUliMl)lipjMMl4J-il flf "-.!&"W.i 1 l'linjmiiil ' hii.hhwiiii n, iIUjImj iji l iL- hl.LL . Li l a;iiWJ i ml in ifiiiiiiiiwii : j 1 - ! ' I ; . t. n I : ! ! : v - 1 ! ' 1 I ' ' ' I limn; In TV j y' , t-y l... y. rose 1.2 to 2.24 million. The state Office of Highway Planning said there were 3,760 crashes involving distracted driving in Michigan last year, including 617 where the driver was using a cellular phone. Thirty-three of the overall distracted driving crashes were fatal, with four involving cell phone use. In the Missouri incident, the driver of a pickup, who had been texting, ran into the back of a tractor-trailer that slowed down in a construction zone. The pick up was struck by a school bus, which was nit Dy a second school bus. Researchers say texting or typing messages is the most dangerous use of cell phones while driving. But studies also have suggested that talking on the phone itself is among the most distracting actions for drivers requiring more attention than, say, speaking to a passenger, because of the level of concentration involved. Paul Green, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, said recent studies have called that assumption into question, but there's little disagreement that, barring clear-cut evidence, the law should err on the side of a ban. "You're driving. Keep your eyes on the road and your mind on the wheel," Green said. A need for outreach Hersman said effective education and public relations outreach will be key to changing driver behavior, as well. Shirley Mansfield, 25, of Madison Heights, a trust analyst for Comerica Bank, said she sees drivers swerving and nearly crashing every day because they can't put their cell phones down. "And they get in the fast lane and go 20 m.p.h. below the speed limit. You can always tell when it's a driver on a cell phone," Mansfield said. "I honk at them and say, 'Hey, hang it up!' " she said, motioning with her hands to signal a phone at her ear. I CONTACT TODD SPANGLER: 703-854-8947 OR TSPANGLER9FREEPRES5.COM. CONTACT MATT HELMS: 313-222-1450 OR MHELMSeFREEPRESS.COM.

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