DoT Guidelines To Help Minimize Driving Distractions

April 24, 2013

Question: If your cellphone buzzes with an SMS message while you're driving, what do you do? Choose from:

a) Ignore it and read it later when you stop b) Take a glance, just to see who it is; or

c) Read it, reply, check your Facebook and plow through the window of your local 7-Eleven.

If you answered "a" then the Department of Transportation's new guidelines on distracted driving probably won't be much of an issue. If you answered "b" or "c", then they might be of some use.

The new guidelines will aid carmakers in preventing in-car devices from becoming too much of a distraction for drivers.

Infotainment systems, satellite navigation, touch-screen displays--all require at least some of your attention to operate, and some are so complex that you can spend quite some time with your eyes away from the road.

The guidelines will be voluntary for carmakers to follow, but aim to disable certain features when the vehicle is in motion, reducing their capacity to distract.

These features include manual text entry for internet browsing or text messaging, video-based entertainment or communications features such as video phoning, and display of certain types of text--such as text messages, emails, and social media content.

The recommendations stem from research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which suggests visual-manual tasks not related to driving can increase the risk of an accident by three times.

An NHTSA study found text messaging, browsing and dialing all diverted a driver's attention longest--a frightening 23 seconds was the average time a driver's eyes spent off the road while texting.

The risks of talking on a cell phone are often discussed, but the NHTSA couldn't find a direct link between this and increased crash risk.

However, actions associated with a phone call, such as dialing, increase the potential for distraction. Risk rises as a result.

"The new study strongly suggests that visual-manual tasks can degrade a driver's focus and increase the risk of getting into a crash up to three times," said David L. Strickland, NHTSA Administrator.

"The new guidelines and our ongoing work with our state partners across the country will help us put an end to the dangerous practice of distracted driving by limiting the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and their attention away from the task of driving."

Suits us. And if you really answered "c" to the question at the top, we hope we aren't sharing the road with you any time soon...

(c) 2013, High Gear Media.

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