US proposes guidelines for auto makers to reduce driver distraction

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing voluntary guidelines intended to reduce driver distraction by electronic devices, which would affect the automobile manufacturing industry.

Of the more than 5 million police-reported automobile crashes in 2010, data shows that about 26,000 crashes involved what the NHTSA calls “an integrated control device” that allows drivers to engage in text messaging, Internet browsing, phone dialing, and other high-tech activities.

If approved, these guidelines would encourage car makers to adapt built-in devices in vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds for safer use. Included among the recommendations:

  • Reducing the amount of time needed to perform a task on a device
  • Allowing the operation of a device with one hand so the other hand can stay on the wheel
  • Reducing time needed to look away from the road while operating the device to less than two seconds
  • Reducing the number of motions needed to operate the device

Auto manufacturers have until about mid-April (the 60-day period after the guidelines were published on February 16) to comment.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an association of more than 10 car and truck makers that includes Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, noted in a press release that the guidelines it adopted in 2002 are the foundation for the NHTSA program.

The press release additionally stated, “We will be reviewing the guidelines to provide further input on their development. Keeping eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is clearly the priority.”

The Alliance has also launched a program with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, called DecideToDrive, designed to prevent distracted driving.

NHTSA’s proposal for voluntary guidelines for built-in electronic devices comes a few months after the National Transportation Safety Board called for a nationwide ban on portable electronic devices while driving. Currently 35 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The NHTSA proposal is also in line with an item in President Obama’s FY2013 budget request for $330 million to fund an education program aimed at reducing distracted driving.


Picture by Paul Menard, used under a CC-Share Alike license.

John MacAyeal

John MacAyeal has worked at Hoover's since the era of Hawaiian shirts and Y2K angst (aka the late 90s). Now he's surprised to have survived into this time of skinny jeans and 2012 angst.

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