Automaker backs texting bans

ford synch dashboardAutomaker Ford has endorsed congressional plans to force states into banning text messaging while driving.

The Ford Motor Co. said it believes hand-held texting “substantially increases the risk of accidents.” It is the first U.S. automaker to weigh in on the texting ban issue.

Ford’s entry into the texting debate has no clear purpose, nor is it likely to make a significant impact on pending legislation. The endorsement does, however, provide some more ammo for lawmakers nationwide seeking to wipe out the dangerous practice.

In any case, the Ford endorsement of congressional action has resulted in lots of free publicity for its Ford Sync dashboard systems, which provide voice-activated hands-free mobile phone calls.

The Ford Sync system, standard on many of the Detroit company’s products, also has the ability to voice text messages to the vehicle’s occupants. Sync was built with Microsoft software.

Ford made clear it was backing bans on hand-held texting. Support is starting to emerge for bans on all cell phones and texting devices, which certainly could impact interactive mobile communications systems such as Ford Sync. The National Safety Council has called for a ban on all cell phone calls, for instance.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, made a splash several weeks ago with a plan to penalize states that refuse to ban texting with a 25 percent reduction in highway funding. A similar approach has been used to raise legal drinking ages and to mandate seat belts.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, also a Democrat from New York, is leading the charge in the House.

“Ford deserves credit for stepping up as the first car company to endorse a ban on this dangerous habit,” Schumer 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 story first appeared in the New York Times.

A Ford vp was quoted as saying: “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.”

Verizon wireless also has come out in favor of the nationwide texting ban.

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