The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has produced a minutely detailed document addressing and attempting to assess driver distractions. According to its numbers, "17 percent (an estimated 899,000) of all police-reported crashes reportedly involved some type of driver distraction in 2010." Out of that number, three percent, or 26,000 accidents, were caused by distraction from "a device/control integral to the vehicle," such as a navigation or infotainment system.

The document provides voluminous guidance to reduce or eliminate possibilities for distracting the driver, and at first glance, their adoption would seem to make in-car navigation systems useless. One of the guidelines suggests that "Systems providing non-safety-related dynamic (i.e. moving spatially) visual information should be capable of a means by which that information is not provided to the driver." Another states that "static or quasi-static maps" are fine – a quasi-static map being one that's updated every few seconds, but "Dynamic, continuously-moving maps are not recommended."

These are only guidelines and they're full of loose phrasing, but the question is what kind of visually useful navigation system could be built to satisfy them. They appear to allow for audio-only navigation while driving, but making maps either inaccessible to the driver or only refreshing them every few seconds would make such systems useless unless a driver can get by with knowing his position once every four seconds. Again, this is only a document that attempts to pair suggestions to evidence derived from hard data, but as far as a practical solution to driver distraction, this might not be the road map drivers or automakers are looking for.


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  • 53 Comments
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Spend all that money on driver education and maybe you wouldn't have a generation of idiots who need saving from themselves.
        kevsflanagan
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        I'm sure plenty do wish they would but the insurance company lobbies won't allow it. They make millions upon millions off of surcharges and higher insurance rates from unedumaked drivers. And yes I mispelled that on purpose. lol The problem is these insurance companies are For-Profit. Hence if they have safe drivers on the road they don't make money.
          Synthono
          • 2 Years Ago
          @kevsflanagan
          Safe drivers are what insurance companies want. Seriously, who makes more money, an insurance company that has lots of clients that get into accidents, or an insurance company with clients who never get in accidents? It's the latter. While they do like charging the accident prone more money on their insurance, keep in mind that the accident prone also get payouts for those crashes - and dents aren't cheap to fix. Charging a safe driver slightly less annually makes them more money, since they never have to actually make a payout. Someone who doesn't get in a crash is pure profit.
      ELG
      • 2 Years Ago
      3% of 17%........ wow Im glad those bureaucrats are tackling the really high priority issues.
        ojfltx
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ELG
        It goes to show you ELG how far the government has gone. It seems they have nothing better to do and are creating a solution and then searching for a problem.
      axordonez
      • 2 Years Ago
      When will the NHTSA and local and state police finally begin to crack down on people cruising the LEFT/PASSING ONLY lane? The law is KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT WHEN PASSING. Yet nobody does anything about this. Lane discipline is a major problem on America's roads and highways. This problem needs a lot more attention. Let alone, emergency vehicles, FIRE-POLICE-AMBULANCE, who need that left lane as open as possible to continue their higher speed average, uninterrupted, or as uninterrupted as possible. Even when people in the left lane move aside when sirens are behind them, that emergency vehicle still has to slow down, wait for that leading car in the left lane to move aside, then resume their speed. This can take about 8-10 seconds a car, times all the cars on the road doing this, times the many times the emergency vehicle has to then risk and go into oncoming traffic to get around these people often at stoplights. Here, people cruising the left lane can add on average, probably 2-5-8 minutes extra to emergency vehicle response times when every second counts! And how many people who die because help didn't arrive soon enough? Or in the back of ambulances? Or in the ER because of late response? Just because help is on the way, or that the patient is in the back of the ambulance, it does not mean that the patient is stable, and is going to be always all right. Or aren't left with additional brain damage when saved because after a few minutes of the brain not receiving oxygen in the blood, sections of the brain begin to die. Mini strokes, that the patient, if revived, may never recover from. The longer that patient can't breathe due to additional delay in help arriving, the more mini strokes that person can suffer, and become invalid the rest of their life. For the brain cells are the slowest in the body to rejuvenate, almost never fully rejuvenating, the older we get. Can you imagine having heart attack, 911 is called, an ambulance is 3-4 minutes away, you can't breathe the whole time and are blacking out, scared, wondering if things in your life are in order especially for your loved ones if you die, you can't do anything about it, then be told, "Oh, just hold your breath an extra 3-5 minutes more," on top of the 3-4 minute distance because stupid casual drivers are in the way of your ambulance, delaying your help? It sounds ridiculous. But it happens everyday. If drivers only had the personal discipline to use the left lane minimally, only when passing or turning left, the left lane would be a lot more open, for those who really need it. Let alone, police cracking down on people casually cruising the left lane for long distances, would make great ticket revenue, and really help the public overall.
      AlphaGnome
      • 2 Years Ago
      People that have no idea where they are going are surely just as dangerous as those who are "distracted" by their navigation systems. I can't count the number of times I've been cut off by people about to miss an exit or slamming on their brakes to make a turn... This is just getting ridiculous! Seriously, texting while driving is completely moronic... BUT, using a navigation while driving is not difficult... Listen to the voice and occasionally glance at the screen when it's safe to do so... At this rate, they will ban us from adjusting our radio or opening windows/sunroofs while we are driving.. Better yet, why not just take away all instruments on the dashboard, we as people are obviously too dumb to look at our speedometer or fuel gauge while operating a vehicle.
      lazy penguin
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think that they really need to focus more on the drivers side of the equation. We need stricter licensing; there are way too many people in the US who don't know how to drive. Start correcting the user error and I believe that crashes will decrease by even more than 17%.
      OptimusPrimeRib
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about this....enact the same driver's license test standards as Finland and teach people how to drive. I feel most of the people that drive today do not deserve a license. I live in NC and their driving test and drivers are a joke.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Bill K
      • 2 Years Ago
      There isn't an end to this, so address the big issues (cell phone talking and texting) and educate the remainder. I think education is logical venue to help prevent further distracted driving. Three percent seems really low! I think there are other issues that have a higher percentage... such as putting on makeup. I see this every day, several times a day. Shaving, eating and talking to others in the car are also big distractions. Hell, drunk driving kills people, but they haven't been able to prevent that from happening either. Just leave well enough alone and start really educating the public on better driving skills. Like, how to deal with road rage. I used to have bad road rage until I realized it's a never ending cycle. Learn to live with people doing stupid things, because it's not going to go away. Save yourself from the stress and just relax and go with the flow. You'll be happier in the long run.
      Edward
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was driving to a destination about 30 miles from home during the weekend. Since the car had free Onstar Directions and Connections for 6 months, I decide to give it a try compared to the Garmin GPS I usually use. The Onstar system gives basic directional instructions in the radio display and voice commands. This car does not have the full blown navigational system. I was surprised how effective it was. At first i was disappointed that it didn't constantly refresh the position but soon realized that that was a distraction that didn't help me get where I was going. I really hate the Government getting involved in personal choices but in this case it does make some sense. No I don't work for GM or Onstar.
        Ron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Edward
        If a moving map display is all it takes to distract that driver, then imagine how distracted they would get by Phones, kids, passengers, pretty trees going by the windows etc. etc. .... Bottom line if a moving map is enough to cause a driver to be distracted enough to be unsafe, anything and everything will make that driver unsafe. No amount of regulation or technology will make that driver safe, and should not be driving.
      leo
      • 2 Years Ago
      so they will push people to aftermarket or cell phone navigation units, which are even more distracting this is going to work out very well ..... not
      Shawn M
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm curious how accurate data is collected for these statistics. Is it from police reports from accidents? Someone rear ends someone and the police ask how it happened? The driver sure isn't going to say, "I was tailgating them because they were driving too slow." Most likely, they'll say they were distracted and messing with GPS or radio or something as they desperately try to not get cited. I wouldn't be surprised if that 3% is much lower as far as directly contributing to an accident.
      atc98092
      • 2 Years Ago
      There's nothing particularly bad about a four second update. I separated aircraft with a 12 second radar update, and the planes are going a whole lot faster. Of course, they didn't need to make a 90 degree turn at the next corner :)
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