Ray LaHood, former Republican congressman who was chosen as Transportation Secretary in Barack Obama’s administration and who campaigned tirelessly against distracted driving, has tendered his resignation from the post.
According to Automotive News (subscription may be required), LaHood plans to resign as soon as a replacement is selected by Obama and confirmed by Congress.
A Washington Post article on the matter made mention of LaHood’s dedication to fighting distracted driving:
“LaHood’s relentless campaign against distracted driving, his safety-first mantra and his determination to visit every state in the union gave the Peoria native a higher profile than several predecessors in the role, traditionally played out in the shadow of more glamorous Cabinet jobs.”
The Post article also pointed out that LaHood is the man we can thank for being the spearhead for many of the anti-texting and hands-free phone laws for drivers:
“…[H]e found his passion in what he called a ‘crusade’ against distracted driving, a growing issue that had been overshadowed by long-term highway safety concerns such as drunken driving. Due in part to his efforts, the District [of Columbia] and 10 states prohibit hand-held cellphone use. Sending and receiving text messages is banned in the District and 39 states.”
There can be little doubt LaHood’s steering of the national conversation and regulatory landscape as it relates to distracted driving has influenced the development of in-car phone connectivity and infotainment technologies. We’re now seeing an increasing number of infotainment systems that will read text messages, RSS feeds, and even social media posts to the driver. Cars connect with a variety of mobile devices in a variety of ways, from Bluetooth smartphone connectivity to USB plugs that enable the driver to control an MP3 player via the car’s native audio interface. Increasingly, those features can be marshaled by voice commands that are constantly becoming more natural and less stilted than they were in the early days of systems such as Ford’s SYNC.
The Obama administration has yet to name a successor to LaHood. As fast as our entertainment and connective technologies are developing, one thing’s for sure: Whoever it is will have his or her hands full if the intent is to continue the anti-distracted driving fight.