Administration Wants Less Distraction In Cars, Urging Automakers to Limit Electronics
Automakers are being urged to limit the number of electronic devices installed in new vehicles as part of the recently released non-binding guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Along with this limitation, the guidelines also ask automakers to ensure that Internet-based applications are disabled when an automobile is in motion. These guidelines come on the heels of a recent study by the NHTSA that found that drivers are most likely to be distracted when text messaging, web browsing and dialing. The Texas Transportation Institute also released a study that found that voice-activated text-messaging devices are equally as distracting as typing on a phone.
Moreover, the guidelines ask carmakers to build electronic devices into vehicles in a way that will not distract drivers, including designing navigation devices so that drivers will not have to take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds to select an option, or for more than 12 seconds to enter an address.
“Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible. It can have devastating consequences,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced the guidelines along with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland.
LaHood and Strickland told reporters during a conference call on April 23rd when the voluntary guidelines were released that the NHTSA has determined that over 3,000 people were killed in crashes that involved distracted driving in 2011 and more than 387,000 were hurt. Furthermore, a survey this year by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that almost 35 percent of drivers said that they had recently read text messages or e-mail while driving, and 26 percent said they had sent a text message.
The automakers, through the Auto Alliance trade group, responded with cautious approval, saying the guidelines should be extended to cover hand-held devices so that drivers don’t try to circumvent restrictions on factory-installed electronics.
“Our concern is that limiting built-in systems without simultaneously addressing portable devices could result in drivers choosing not to connect their phones in order to access the functionality they want,” the Alliance said in a statement. “That would be a troubling outcome, given the [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] finding announced today that visual-manual tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices increase crash risk by three times.”
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