In its continuing battle against distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued voluntary guidelines covering the use of in-car infotainment and communication devices. It is NHTSA's intention that the proposals, which have been in the works for a year and are partly based on a 2010 study called "Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk," will be phased in over the next three years. That would give automakers time to reconfigure their systems to comply.

Proposed items include disabling manual text entry, video-based entertainment and video phone calls and prohibiting the display of text messages, social media or web pages while the car is in motion or in gear. The objective is to keep the driver's eyes off the road for no more than two seconds at a time, and 12 seconds in total. That 12-second limit would be achieved by only allowing a driver six inputs or touches of the screen within a dozen seconds, but it would include activities beyond phone calls and nav inputs, like changing the radio station or using the climate control. At the moment, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has a self-imposed limit of 20 seconds, although we're not sure how that's enforced by the infotainment system.
Calling distracted driving "a deadly epidemic," NHTSA says that it is trying to "balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need." The study showed that activities like using hand-held phones potentially tripled the risk of a crash and texting doubled the risk of a crash or near-crash. Distracted drivers accounted for about a third of all accident fatalities in 2011, a rise over 2010, but injuries are down, as are the number of crashes related to phone use.

According to a report in Automotive News, when the proposals are fully implemented, NHTSA is also considering adding them the the New Car Assessment Program, which would encourage automakers to comply if they want a five-star safety rating.
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Voluntary guidelines reduce visual-manual distraction - the greatest safety risk to drivers in NHTSA's new study

WASHINGTON, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today released distraction guidelines that encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk connected to electronic devices built into their vehicles, such as communications, entertainment and navigation devices.

"Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation's roadways," said Secretary LaHood. "These guidelines recognize that today's drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need. Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives."

Issued by the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the voluntary guidelines establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require drivers to take their hands off the wheel or eyes of the road to use them.

The guidelines include recommendations to limit the time a driver must take his eyes off the road to perform any task to two seconds at a time and twelve seconds total. The guidelines also recommend disabling several operations unless the vehicle is stopped and in park, such as:
- Manual text entry for the purposes of text messaging and internet browsing;
- Video-based entertainment and communications like video phoning or video conferencing;
- Display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages, social media content.

The recommendations outlined in the guidelines are consistent with the findings of a new NHTSA naturalistic driving study, The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk. The study showed that visual-manual tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

"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."

The study found text messaging, browsing, and dialing resulted in the longest duration of driver's taking their eyes-off-road. Text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in the driver's eyes off the road for an average of 23.3 seconds total. Visual-manual activities performed when completing a phone call – such as reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing the number – increased the risk by three times.

The study did not find a direct increased crash risk from the specific act of talking on a cell phone. However, the manual-visual interactions involved with using a hand-held phone made its overall use 1.73 times more risky, since the use of these devices involve visual-manual tasks 100 percent of the time. Even portable hands-free and in-vehicle hands-free cell phone use was found to involve visual-manual tasks at least 50 percent of the time, which are associated with higher risk.

The guidelines and research announced today are part of Secretary LaHood's Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving, a comprehensive plan that builds on the national momentum the Department has spearheaded for the last three years. Recognizing the extent and complexity of the problem, the Department will continue to work with federal, state and local partners, the auto industry, and safety community to address distraction. Currently, the Department is partnering with the Transportation Research Board on a naturalistic driving study involving nearly 3,000 vehicles to examine the nation's highway system including speed, curves, intersection control, lighting, driver fatigue, and distraction, among others. Distraction is one of many safety topics that will be examined as part of this large-scale data collection.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      Kuro Houou
      • 2 Years Ago
      You can't make a system that disables phones or limits use of the phone in a car because it doesn't take into consideration the fact passengers will be in the car with their phones too. Simple as that. But if they are serious then a they have to do is make the penalties very large to scare people. Imagine if you got your license revoked for a month or a 500 dollar fine? That will stop people quick. Or mandate cars get better technology and all phones must be able to read and write text messages through Bluetooth. Just look at apple they don't even allow messages to be read. So really those are the two options, scare people into not doing it or make some great open technology that all phones must use.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Kuro Houou
        Unfortunately, that's not going to happen, because the legislators who make these laws are every bit as guilty of driving around using smartphones as the people who they want to penalize for it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey maybe we should crowd fund this hippy's trip too! ;)
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ironic that this is released on the same day as Google Glasses. Now people will have a hands - free way to be distracted behind the wheel.
      • 2 Years Ago
      If people knew how annoying it is to be stuck behind someone playing on their phone while going 10 under the speed limit, they'd probably stop.
        Leather Bear
        • 2 Years Ago
        Sadly, about as likely as "If people knew how annoying it is to be stuck behind someone [sitting in the #1 lane] while going 10 under the speed limit, they'd probably [move to the right]."
      Gordon Chen
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think they key is education and changing the culture. It's like seatbelts. Some cars make an annoying noise when it's not buckled, and people actually buy fake seat belts to plug into the socket, and shut it up, than buckle up! My dad keeps making calls on his phone even after I told him it's dangerous. He responded "how am I supposed to pick up the phone?" i told him "DON'T" He seems to be better at it.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The image of the driver, his text probably reads: "I'm gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket"
      • 2 Years Ago
      You can first get rid of the hipsters driving toyotas wearing weird glasses and texting at the same time
        • 2 Years Ago
        that douche canoe in the pictures is driving some kind of gm truck.
      Matthew Miles
      • 2 Years Ago
      Who else wants to punch that guy in and about the face?
      • 2 Years Ago
      And here is a specimen of a "Hipsterus Faggotinimus" this species is an evil epidemic rapidly spreading across the globe. It is characterized by excessive facial hair, ugly brown ankle boots, little effeminate emboidered scarves and trousers that are much too short. If you do encounter one of these things in the urban wilds do not hesitate to give it a swift punch to the cranium. The epidemic must be stopped friends!
      • 2 Years Ago
      roderick t
      • 2 Years Ago
      I have a simple solution. The fine for texting while driving will start at 1k. If you cause an accident it starts at 5k . I see a lot of idiots doing this and it drives me crazy.
      Jefe Grande
      • 2 Years Ago
      Not that image again... I consider myself to be a peaceful, easy-going guy. But so help me if I don't want to punch his stupid face.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Jefe Grande
        Autoblog uses this photo just to piss everyone off on any article related to NHTSA guidelines.
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