Never before has the federal government drafted guidelines for car manufacturers to use in the fight against the dangers of distracted driving, but this month Ray LaHood, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, released the proposals drafted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Of course, the reality that distracted driving kills people is recognized by agencies and car makers alike: text messaging and other forms of distraction cause the deaths of drivers as well as their passengers and those in the other vehicles involved in the collision.
The federal recommendations are not regulatory: they are suggestions to automobile makers in the United States to follow in providing American drivers with “less distracting” gizmos in cars, trucks, SUVS, etc.
Will they become legally required? Too soon to tell, but that’s a possibility.
And by gizmos, we mean more than just cell phones: the NHTSA is also promoting car makers work toward “less distracting” GPS/navigation devices as well as music, video, and other sources of information offered by modern technology and installed in various vehicle models. Practically any kind of electronic devise that a driver would look at with his eyes or touch with her hands is covered by the NHTSA guidelines and if adopted by American car makers, these guidelines should change the appearance of car interiors in the future.
“Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America’s roadways – that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel,” said Secretary LaHood. “These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.”
The guidelines are proposed in various phases. The proposed Phase I distraction guidelines that have been released this week include “disabling of the following operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for use by passengers and cannot reasonably be accessed or seen by the driver, or unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift lever is in park.”
This means the following would not work while the car is being driven unless they are so far away from the driver that they cannot distract him or her:
- Visual-manual text messaging;
- Visual-manual internet browsing;
- Visual-manual social media browsing;
- Visual-manual navigation system destination entry by address;
- Visual-manual 10-digit phone dialing;
- Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.
NHTSA will also hold public hearings where the public can comment on these proposals. There will be a public hearing in Chicago sometime in March.
Think about how this would change the interior of your car: could you use your navigation system? your phone? Would this be a good thing for your teenage driver?