Automakers make big changes for safer driving

LOS ANGELES "We've added anti-lock brake systems to our vehicles, we started to add vehicle stability control, and the technology continues to grow," said Jeff Norton, Lexus spokesman.

Lexus set up a demonstration recently to show the difference between a car without ABS, which was unable to stop well, and an identical car with the system in play. It can stop and steer around trouble with the driver in control.

But increasing technology in our lives brings a downside to the safety equation, and the federal government is taking notice.

"Everybody thinks they can use their cell phone and drive and drive safely, and you can't," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

It seems almost everyone's phoning or texting behind the wheel these days - and it's not just teenagers.

"I talk to the kids, and they say, 'Well my parents tell me don't text and don't use my phone, but then I get in the car with them, and they're doing it,'" said Jim Snelling of Advanced Driving Dynamics.

Snelling has been teaching advanced driving skills for 15 years and is easily able to demonstrate to his students the distraction texting can cause.

Most people know that it's against the law to text or to talk on the phone while driving. They probably also know that it's not safe. But many people assume that they are able to do it safely.

"If you're going 65 mph, and you're looking down for three seconds, you've traveled the length of a football field," Snelling said.

He said he'd like to see more systems like the ones from Ford and Kia that can read text messages to you. It's completely hands free, and you never have to look at your phone.

A new app for the Droid smart phone called Start Talking allows you to text away, hands free. Future apps will be available for other devices like the iPhone.

Meanwhile, Lexus and other car companies say they're hard at work making sure that you'll still be able to stay in control with advanced technology - even if all that other technology in your life sometimes distracts you.

Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.