The Withheld Distracted Driver Information

July 21, 2009

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had data from research as early as 2003 showing the dangers of distracted drivers. This included information on cell phone use while driving. A key finding was that even headsets did not help. The conversations are the distraction, not using your hands to operate the cell phone. The information was not distributed to protect funding. Distribution could have been viewed as lobbying. You need to read the stories to make sense of that one. “The research findings were obtained by the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen through Freedom of Information requests, the Times said. The newspaper posted the documents on its Web site Monday night.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090721/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_cell_phone_study
This raises a number of issues for public relations.

Questions to Consider
1. Why was this risk information not communicated to constituents? Tax money funded the collection of the data so should not tax payers know the results?
2. What types of public relations problems does this create for the government?

3. How would you try to handle the situation now from a PR perspective?

4. What ethical issues and concerns do see in this case for communication?

5. Who benefited from this information being withheld?

6. Who was harmed from this information being withheld?

To see the document go to http://documents.nytimes.com/documents-from-the-u-s-department-of-transportation-s-national-highway-traffic-safety-administration#p=1

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