Thursday, June 7, 2012

From the Desk of Ray LaHood: The Good, The Disappointing and The Unexpected

They're not hard to spot, as they drift slowly over the median, weave side to side and abruptly turn without  warning. Not drinking, not injecting drugs as they steer, these drivers are doing something far more dangerous: they're texting. According to AAA distracted driving accounts for some 8000 crashes PER DAY. In 2010 alone, nearly 34,000 people died in accidents caused by drivers who weren't paying attention to the road.

As we approach prime road-trip season, I, for one, am very happy to see that Department of Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood is putting distracted driving on the front burner. He announced today a Blueprint To End Distracted Driving. Among the measures the DOT plans to take:
  • Its pushing the remaining 11 states without distracted driver laws on the books to add them
  • It will be working with the automobile manufacturers to make sure that new devices added to cars don't have the unintended consequence of distracting drivers further
  • The department will be partnering with driver education professionals to incorporate information on distracted driving into their lessons. Data shows that those under the age of 25 are far more likely to text while behind the wheel than older drivers.
  • Give grants of $2.4 million to both California and Delaware for pilot programs testing whether public education campaigns help dissuade people from texting while driving. The money will also allow law enforcement officials in those states to try out new methods of enforcing existing laws involving cellphone use and driving.
Europe's Emission Caps

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood
In a disappoint move, LaHood has joined a number of Senators in opposing the European Union's plan to try and curb greenhouse gas emissions by commercial jetliners with a tax on those emissions. This forward-thinking law would have forced both airlines and airline manufacturers to come up with greener flight technologies, something that's long overdue. Its a shame that LaHood is refusing to take global climate change seriously, and opposing this forward-thinking European rule. For more on that issue, click here.

Priority Seating Fees

You may remember that last week I railed against the priority seating fees that are now making it very difficult for families to sit together without paying a high additional cost for their seats. (On some airlines, to secure any but the middle seats requires the payment of an additional fee).  Its an issue that's gained some political traction, which Senator Chuck Schumer of New York suggesting that the airlines waive priority seating fees for children, so that families can sit together. He cited, quite rightly, I think, the safety issues inherent in dividing parents from their children.

Unfortunately, La Hood does not seem to think that the safety issues override the right, granted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 which allows carriers to set their own fees. He testified to that effect before a Senate Panel today. Let's hope that the Senators who have been railing against these fees publicly (its a popular issue) will take the initiative to tweak the law, so something can be done when safety is at stake. Safety first, after all!

Ray LaHood's had quite a busy week, dontcha think?

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