Distractions While Driving Force NHTSA to Act

- April 24, 2013

Faced with an “epi­dem­ic” of dis­trac­tions while dri­ving, the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion has unveiled new vol­un­tary guide­lines.

Find out what pro­pos­als and warn­ings the NHTSA sets out.

Bat­tling against a dis­tract­ed dri­ving “epi­dem­ic” blamed for caus­ing more than 10% of all U.S. high­way fatal­i­ties, the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion has unveiled new vol­un­tary guide­lines meant to keep driver’s eyes on the road rather than on smart­phones and in-car devices dis­play­ing text mes­sages and Web con­tent.

The guide­lines are meant to lim­it the amount of time dri­vers look away from the road even when doing mun­dane tasks like chang­ing radio sta­tions or check­ing onboard nav­i­ga­tion direc­tions. The pro­pos­al appears to take par­tic­u­lar aim at text mes­sag­ing and post­ing to social media sites like Face­book.

Among the pro­pos­als, NHTSA would like to see the indus­try to find ways to block motorists from tex­ting while behind the wheel.

Accord­ing to NHTSA, motorists should not need to take their eyes off the road for more than two sec­onds at a time – and since some func­tions require pag­ing through mul­ti­ple screens, no task should take more than 12 sec­onds, accord­ing to the nation’s top auto safe­ty reg­u­la­tors.

“These guide­lines rec­og­nize that today’s dri­vers appre­ci­ate tech­nol­o­gy, while pro­vid­ing automak­ers with a way to bal­ance the inno­va­tion con­sumers want with the safe­ty we all need,” said Ray LaHood, U.S. Sec­re­tary of Trans­porta­tion.

Mean­while, the indus­try trade group the Alliance of Auto­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers issued a state­ment saysing that “NHTSA and automak­ers share the same goal: dri­vers need to keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and con­nect their mobile phones to the built-in car sys­tems.”

Nonethe­less, the auto indus­try cau­tions that it should not take the heat for a prob­lem that isn’t lim­it­ed to smart­phones and hard-to-use nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems.

The new vol­un­tary guide­lines are nonethe­less like­ly to be tak­en seri­ous­ly by automak­ers as they could still be cit­ed by plain­tiff attor­neys who take on a man­u­fac­tur­er in a wrong­ful death or injury law­suit.

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