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National Safety Council CEO On ‘The Double-Edged Sword’ Of Road Technology


In the first six months of this year, more than 1,600 people died on roads in Texas – more than in any other state. In fact, TxDOT says at least one person has died every day from a car accident since November of 2000.

Despite the grim statistics, National Safety Council CEO Deborah Hersman is optimistic about one thing: how technology may be able to improve safety.

Interview Highlights: Deborah Hersman…

…On why Texas leads the nation in drunk driving fatalities:

“One of the things that Texas doesn’t do is they don’t have sobriety checkpoints. Many other states have used that very effectively. Those sobriety checkpoints do a lot when it comes to awareness and education.”

…On the state’s struggle to pass a texting-while-driving ban:

“Texas has actually tried to pass a texting ban three times. In the beginning, when the law was first drafted and sent to the governor, Texas would’ve actually been one of the first states in the nation that had a texting ban. Now, [the state] is only one of six states that doesn’t have a texting ban. About one-quarter of crashes, the National Safety Council estimates, involve distraction.”

…On the technology packaged with new car models:

“I think it’s a double-edged sword. There are some distractions in the car that are inherit in these infotainment systems. These things continue to take the driver’s attention away from the driving task.

I will say the technology has a tremendous appeal when it comes to safety. [The National Safety Council] has looked at more than 30 in-vehicle safety technologies. Just understanding how lane-departure warning systems work, electronic stability control, adaptive cruise control…there’s a lot of technologies coming in our cars today. It’s not just anti-lock brakes and airbags anymore. It’s very sophisticated stuff and making sure people understand how it works and how to use it…is really important.” 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.