David Strickland

Technology will play a major role in a US push to make driving safer, says the country’s top auto-safety regulator, David Strickland.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Strickland, who heads the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wants to address issues presented by new technology. A major concern is distracted driving, he said.

At the same time, Strickland also wants to use new technologies to help avoid accidents.

"One thing we are really focused on is crash-avoidance technology,"  Strickland was quoted as saying. The NHTSA is looking for the next crash-avoidance technology, which could mean that more cars could be equipped with lane-departure warning systems. Longer term, connected cars could warn each other of impending dangers.

According to the Journal, Strickland’s agency is also investigating new ways to deal with drunk driving. NHTSA research shows that some 17 million people in the US have driven under the influence at least once during the past year.

The NHTSA, together with carmakers, is pursuing research to develop systems that can unobtrusively””and accurately”” sense whether a driver's blood alcohol level is over the limit. Such technology could then prevent a car from starting.

The goal, says Strickland, is to make these systems good enough for car manufacturers, insurance companies and consumers to accept them.

Strickland said his agency wants to issue "voluntary guidelines"  this year to address distracted-driving issues. The NHTSA wants auto makers to use these when designing in-car displays or systems for integrating smart phones, music players or video. In the past, such "voluntary" guidelines have often served as de facto standards for the industry, the Journal said.