TRAFFIC ALERT


New cars increasingly crammed with distracting technology

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 12:04 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 12:02 AM


            In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)
In this image from video, Jake Nelson, AAA’s director for traffic safety advocacy and research drives one of the test vehicles used in the study in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Infotainment technology automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, a study being released by AAA on Oct. 5 says. (AP Photo/Bill Gorman)

The infotainment technology that automakers are cramming into the dashboard of new vehicles is making drivers take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for dangerously long periods of time, an AAA study says.

The study released Thursday is the latest by University of Utah professor David Strayer, who has been examining the impact of infotainment systems on safety for AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety since 2013. Past studies also identified problems, but Strayer said the "explosion of technology" has made things worse.

Automakers now include more infotainment options to allow drivers to use social media, email and text. The technology is also becoming more complicated to use. Cars used to have a few buttons and knobs. Some vehicles now have as many as 50 buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard that are multi-functional. There are touch screens, voice commands, writing pads, heads-up displays on windshields and mirrors and 3-D computer-generated images.

"It's adding more and more layers of complexity and information at drivers' fingertips without often considering whether it's a good idea to put it at their fingertips," Strayer said. That complexity increases the overall amount of time drivers spend trying to use the systems.

The auto industry says the new systems are better alternatives for drivers than mobile phones and navigation devices that were not designed to be used while driving.

The vehicle-integrated systems "are designed to be used in the driving environment and require driver attention that is comparable to tuning the radio or adjusting climate controls, which have always been considered baseline acceptable behaviors while driving," said Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But Jake Nelson, AAA's director for traffic safety advocacy and research, said drivers testing all 30 of the 2017 model year cars and light trucks took their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel while using infotainment systems. The test drivers used voice commands, touch screens and other interactive technologies to make calls, send texts, tune the radio or program navigation all while driving.

Clearly automakers haven't worked hard enough to make the systems quick and easy to use, Nelson said. Researchers rated 23 of the 30 vehicles "very high" or "high" in terms of the attention they demanded from drivers. Seven were rated "moderate." None required a low amount of attention to use.

Programming a destination into in-vehicle GPS navigation systems was the most distracting activity, taking drivers an average of 40 seconds to complete the task. At 25 mph (40 kph), a car can travel the length of four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination. Previous research has shown that drivers who remove their eyes from the road for just two seconds double their risk for a crash.

Under pressure from industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012 issued voluntary safety guidelines to automakers for dashboard technology instead of enforceable safety standards. The guidelines recommend that automakers lock out the ability to program navigation systems while a car is moving. However, the ability to program navigation while driving was available in 12 vehicles in the study.

The guidelines also recommend automakers prevent drivers from texting while driving, but three-quarters of the vehicles tested permit drivers to text while the car is moving. Texting was the second-most distracting task performed by test drivers.

Drivers looked away from the road less when using voice commands, but that safety benefit was offset by the increased amount of time drivers spent interacting with the systems.

AAA said drivers should use infotainment technologies "only for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving-related purposes." It also urged automakers to block the ability to program navigation systems or send texts while driving. Automakers should also design infotainment systems so that they require no more attention to use than listening to the radio or an audiobook, it said.

Nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults say they want the new technologies in their vehicles, but only 24 percent feel that the technology already works perfectly, according to an opinion survey conducted for AAA.

"Drivers want technology that is safe and easy to use," said Marshall Doney, AAA's president and CEO, "but many of the features added to infotainment systems today have resulted in overly complex and sometimes frustrating user experiences for drivers."

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Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

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Trump demands major change in how U.S. legal system deals with illegal aliens

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 8:52 PM

As Republicans struggled again to gather a majority in the House this week for an immigration reform bill, President Donald Trump on Sunday seemed to hint that the effort might be a waste of time, blaming Democrats for their opposition to GOP plans, and demanding major changes in how the U.S. legal system deals with those illegally entering the United States.

“When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” the President tweeted on Sunday, making the argument that illegal immigrants deserve no legal standing in court, no due process after being detained.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has held the opposite, ruling in a 1982 case that “illegal aliens…may claim the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause, which provides that no State shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.'”

“Summarily removing individuals with no opportunity for a hearing, even if they might have viable legal objections to their removal, would likely violate due process,” said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School.

That idea was one of a number of tweets this weekend on immigration from the President:

Mr. Trump’s comments came as House Republicans were still preparing a vote this week on a backup immigration reform bill – but no date for the vote had been set, as GOP leaders have struggled to corral a majority on the issue.

In Congress, Mr. Trump’s idea to deny due process rights to illegal aliens landed with a big thud in both parties.

“Removing due process from immigration cases is yet another example of Trump’s extreme immigration policy and disregard for the rule of law,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

“No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” tweeted Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), quoting the text of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

“Due process is a bedrock American legal principle,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

Democrats spent much of the weekend trying to focus more attention on the effort to reunite children of illegal immigrant families, who were separated from their parents under a Trump Administration effort to deter illegal immigrants from trying to cross the U.S. southern border.

But others on Capitol Hill saw the current immigration debate in much a different light.

“America is heading in the direction of another Harpers Ferry,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a strong backer of the President’s calls for tough action on illegal immigration, referring to John Brown’s raid in 1859, in a bid to start a slave revolt.

“After that comes Ft. Sumter,” King said in a tweet, referring to the first shots of the Civil War.

 

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Gulf grows between Trump and Congress on trade

Published: Saturday, June 23, 2018 @ 5:15 AM

As President Donald Trump this week threatened $200 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports, and then warned Europe that he would slap a 20 percent tariff on imported automobiles, members of both parties Congress accused the administration of starting a trade war which could cause collateral economic damage across the United States.

The differences were on display at a hearing Wednesday with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who took a bipartisan tongue lashing on a recent round of tariffs levied on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.

“We’re picking winners and losers,” argued Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who said those tariffs were already hurting businesses in his home state.

“Probably resulting – in my view – in far more jobs being lost than being gained,” Toomey told Ross, citing a very well-known Pennsylvania company that could find it less expensive to move jobs from the U.S. to Canada.

Almost every Senator on the panel had a story of a small business that was feeling the pinch due to Trump Administration tariffs, impacting all sorts of agricultural products, as well as manufacturing, big and small.

“Do you think we’re in a trade war right now?” asked Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “Because I do,” as Cantwell rattled off farm products that were losing markets because of retaliatory tariff measures.

Ross downplayed the cost of higher imported steel and aluminum, basically making the case that economic hardships were being overplayed.

“It’s a fraction of a penny on a can of Campbell’s soup, it’s a fraction on a can of Budweiser, it’s a fraction on a can of Coke,” Ross said.

That did not please the Senator from the state of Coca-Cola.

“Although a couple of pennies on a can is not much, a couple pennies times a billion is lots,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

“We’re hit harder than any other state by the Canadian retaliatory tariffs,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), warning the Trump Administration against tariffs on imported automobiles, as GOP Senators labeled such actions a tax on consumers.

“Steel prices are going up – not just for foreign steel subject to tariffs, but also for U.S. steel,” complained Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

“Mexico’s buying their wheat from Argentina and their corn from Brazil,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), as he told Ross that Kansas wheat exports were encountering troubles because of new retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports, bringing bad economic news on the farm report.

Ross simply told Senators if other countries put new tariffs on U.S. exports, that was out of his control.

“We have no control over what another country does in retaliation,” Ross said.

The bipartisan complaints clearly had no impact, as by Friday, President Trump was on Twitter, issuing new threats against European auto imports.

As Democrats registered their opposition, they also couldn’t help but note the oddity of a Republican President going against what’s been a bedrock belief of the GOP.

“I feel like I’ve gone down a rabbit hole,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), who said she found it hard to believe the party of free trade now had a President in office who was doing the exact opposite.

“In a chaotic and frankly incompetent manner, you’re picking winners and losers,” McCaskill told Ross.

But for the President, this is about re-setting trade deals, which he says were tilted against the United States.

“As far as trade is concerned with other countries, we want fair and reciprocal trade, we don’t want stupid trade like we had for so long,” the President said at a rally in Minnesota.

“Remember the world reciprocal,” Mr. Trump said. “We have been ripped off by almost every country on Earth, our friends and our enemies.”

“But those days are over,” the President said to cheers from the crowd.

But while they’re cheering Mr. Trump on the stump, at the U.S. Capitol, they’re worried about a trade war.

“We’re getting into a war that’s going to cost lots of billions of dollars,” Isakson warned.

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House approves big, bipartisan bill to deal with opioid crisis

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 1:25 PM

In a fresh reminder that political cooperation is not dead on Capitol Hill, the House on Friday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping package of over fifty bipartisan bills to address the misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine, as lawmakers voted to expand a variety of services under Medicare and Medicaid to deal with the drug scourge.

“We can do things when we put partisan politics aside and work together,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), one of a number of lawmakers who touted various provisions in the sweeping opioids measure.

“This particular bill, H.R. 6, is the crown jewel of all that legislation,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).

“This legislation will strengthen our efforts to advance treatment and recovery issues, and bolster the fight against deadly and illicit drugs,” said Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA).

“This is a big deal in the fight against the largest public health crisis in our country,” said Speaker Paul Ryan.

“Mr. Speaker, so often we hear about the partisan wrangling in Congress and clearly there are dividing lines on some high-profile issues,” said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). “But this an issue where Republicans and Democrats have come together.”

The final vote was 396-14. The bill now goes to the Senate.

“Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover opioid treatment programs,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). “These bills are pieces of a large, complex puzzle. We need to find realistic solutions with long term outcomes.”

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Trump: GOP should give up on immigration until after 2018 elections

Published: Friday, June 22, 2018 @ 7:29 AM

A day after Republicans in the House defeated one more conservative immigration reform plan, and delayed action until next week on a second bill because of a lack of GOP votes, President Donald Trump on Friday suggested a different avenue entirely – urging Republicans in Congress to drop the issue until after the November elections.

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November,” the President tweeted early on Friday morning, saying the answer was simple – get more GOP lawmakers in the 2018 mid-term elections.

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump pledged, as he blamed Democrats and the Senate rules, which would force him to get 60 votes to do what he wants on immigration.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion came as GOP leaders were still looking for a magic legislative formula on immigration reform, as the issue has divided Republicans in both the House and Senate.

The suggestion by the President that immigration efforts are a waste of time came as Republicans were trying to fine tune a second immigration bill in the House, with hopes of approving that next week, before lawmakers go home for a July Fourth break.

Many GOP lawmakers had been hoping that the President instead would come out very publicly in favor of those efforts, and help convince some reluctant House Republicans to get on board, and vote for the plan, despite misgivings about certain provisions.

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