NHTSA administrator says safety comes before apps

June 10, 2011 12:00 AM

There's no doubt that some of the new technologies automakers have shown off look impressive and fun. For example, many models are now coming with computer systems similar to smartphones, with the ability to download applications.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that these apps can be dangerous and contribute to distracted driving. NHTSA chief David Strickland recently paid a visit to the Telematics Detroit 2011 Conference to tell automakers that they must prioritize safety above all else.

"I'm just putting everyone on notice. A car is not a mobile device," Strickland said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "I'm not in the business of helping people tweet better. I'm not in the business of helping people post on Facebook better. A car is a car. We lose 33,000 people a year because of highway crashes, and 995 are attributed to someone with a cell phone."

Strickland acknowledged that some of the advancements have been useful, such as those that give maintenance information or navigation software. Others, like social media applications, don't really have to do with driving - and this is where the government regulator begins to get concerned.

To address these issues, automakers are working on ways to use the technology without distracting drivers - such as through voice-activated commands.

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