In an attempt to get drivers off their phones and to equip cars with the latest technology, auto manufacturers have been hard at work outfitting their vehicles with electronic gadgets.  But some of these gadgets may still be causing distractions for drivers.

Proposed Guidelines are Voluntary

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray La Hood has been waging a war against distracted driving now for a couple of years.  On Thursday, he announced that the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is releasing the first-ever federally proposed guidelines that will reduce the number of distractions for electronic devices inside automobiles.

Although the guidelines are only voluntary at this time, Secretary La Hood hopes that automakers will see the need for limited distractions in automobiles and outfit them with the safest technology.  The proposed guidelines apply to communication devices, entertainment devices, and devices that help the driver navigate.

The announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s federal budget request for 2013, which allocates $330 million over a six year period to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Using Features that Foster Technology & Promote Safety

Under Phase I of the proposed guidelines, NHTSA encourages the automakers to focus on eliminating visual distractions, which take the driver’s eyes off the road, and manual distractions, which take the drivers hands off the wheel.  Among the proposed guidelines are:

  • Reduce the complexity and length of time needed to use the device
  • Allow the device to be controlled by one hand
  • Reduce the time it takes a driver to look at a device to no more than two seconds
  • Reduce the visual information and manual inputs

When a car is in motion, NHTSA suggests that automakers limit what a driver can do with the various devices.  For instance, if the driver’s automobile is in motion, the technology to use the internet or social media applications should be restricted until the automobile is placed in park.

Guidelines up for Public Comment

The current proposed guidelines can be found in the Federal Register, and the public will have the chance to give their comments about the guidelines to NHTSA for 60 days.  Public hearings for comment will be held in March in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

NHTSA expects to issue two other phases of proposed guidelines in the future to address hand-held electronic devices, such as smart phones and electronic tablets.

To learn more about how you can limit distractions while driving, download my free e-book Distracted to Death and take the Just Put It Down Pledge.

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