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NHTSA issues voluntary guidelines to limit technological distractions in vehicles

Drivers like electronic devices in their cars. Automobile manufacturer like to make available more of those devices, as they provide additional and attractive features to draw drivers and, incidentally, increase the selling price of a new car. However, all of those electronic features come with a cost that is paid by those killed and injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving.

The US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week issued voluntary guidelines in the hope that auto manufacturers will exercise some restraint their loading up of vehicles with more and potentially more distracting electronic devices that lead to additional car accidents.

The rationale behind the use of voluntary guidelines is that technology is changing so rapidly that were DOT and NHTSA to develop mandatory rules, they could very well be obsolete before they were finally issued.

The new guidelines will have a three-year phase in period, recommend that technology be designed to limit a drivers need to look away from the road to complete a task. Changing a music selection or adjusting volume should take no more than two seconds to complete. More complex tasks, such as beginning a phone call or checking directions on a GPS, should be completed in 12 seconds total, preferably in increments of 1.5 seconds.

NHTSA also released the results of a new study that showed when drivers have to look at screens or touch an electronic devices, their risk of a crash triples. One of the authors of the study suggested that "more and more technology" might not be the answer to improving driver safety.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "A two-second rule for distracted drivers? Automakers asked to restrict tech," Cricket Fuller, April 23, 2013

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