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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Department of Transportation Proposes Their Distracted Driving Guidlines For Automakers

    William Maley

    Editor/Reporter - CheersandGears.com

    February 17, 2012

    Distracted Driving is a topic that’s on everybody's minds, and with good reason. Newer vehicles are packed with more technology; ranging from touchscreen infotainment systems options to voice-controlled applications to smartphone integration.

    It comes as no surprise that the U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, the man who is leading the Distracted Driving cause has announced a new set of proposed guidelines for automakers to limit the use of in-car tech solutions that are "not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver's eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving."

    “Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America’s roadways—that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel. These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.” LaHood said in a statement.

    Phase 1 of the three-phase process of recommendations would include:

    • Reducing the time it takes to operate devices
    • Limit operation of devices to one hand only
    • Limit the time eyes spend away from the road to two seconds or less
    • Limit unnecessary visual information from the driver’s view
    • Limit the number of inputs needed to operate devices

    The recommendations would also block devices such as navigation units from having addresses put into them while the car is moving, as well as limit the operation of:

    • Text messaging
    • Internet browsing
    • Social media use
    • 10-digit phone dialing
    • Display more than 30 characters of text unrelated to driving

    NHTSA will hold public hearings on the guidelines in March at Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C.

    Press Release is on Page 2

    U.S. Department of Transportation Proposes 'Distraction' Guidelines for Automakers

    Proposed recommendations would encourage manufacturers to develop "less distracting" in-vehicle electronic devices

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices. The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle.

    Issued by the Department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the guidelines would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers. The announcement of the guidelines comes just days after President Obama's FY 2013 budget request, which includes $330 million over six years for distracted driving programs that increase awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to take action.

    "Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America's roadways – that's why I've made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel," said Secretary LaHood. "These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages."

    Geared toward light vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and other vehicles rated at not more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight), the guidelines proposed today are the first in a series of guidance documents NHTSA plans to issue to address sources of distraction that require use of the hands and/or diversion of the eyes from the primary task of driving.

    In particular, the Phase I proposed guidelines released today recommend criteria that manufacturers can use to ensure the systems or devices they provide in their vehicles are less likely to distract the driver with tasks not directly relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or cause undue distraction by engaging the driver's eyes or hands for more than a very limited duration while driving. Electronic warning system functions such as forward-collision or lane departure alerts would not be subject to the proposed guidelines, since they are intended to warn a driver of a potential crash and are not considered distracting devices.

    "We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today's American drivers," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. "The guidelines we're proposing would offer real-world guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want-without disrupting a driver's attention or sacrificing safety."

    The proposed Phase I distraction guidelines include recommendations to:

    • Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
    • Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle);
    • Limit individual off-road glances required for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration;
    • Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver's field of view;
    • Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.

    The proposed guidelines would also recommend the disabling of the following operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for use by passengers and cannot reasonably be accessed or seen by the driver, or unless the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift lever is in park.

    • Visual-manual text messaging;
    • Visual-manual internet browsing;
    • Visual-manual social media browsing;
    • Visual-manual navigation system destination entry by address;
    • Visual-manual 10-digit phone dialing;
    • Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.

    NHTSA is also considering future, Phase II proposed guidelines that might address devices or systems that are not built into the vehicle but are brought into the vehicle and used while driving, including aftermarket and portable personal electronic devices such as navigation systems, smart phones, electronic tablets and pads, and other mobile communications devices. A third set of proposed guidelines (Phase III) may address voice-activated controls to further minimize distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket, and portable devices.

    The Phase I guidelines were published in today's Federal Register and members of the public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal for 60 days. Final guidelines will be issued after the agency reviews and analyzes and responds to public input.

    NHTSA will also hold public hearings on the proposed guidelines to solicit public comment. The hearings will take place in March and will be held in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C

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    User Feedback

    While I think some of these limitations are good, I feel the bulk of this is Big Brother telling you what you can do and when.

    I agree that a driver should NOT be browsing the web or social media or any other visual/manual input, but the ability to enter an address into nav via voice input should be allowed as well as voice operation of other devices. I do not see this as distracting to the driver.

    I do agree that things should always be less complicated.

    Will be interesting to see what the input from the public will be on this. Also WHY CHICAGO? I get LA and DC, but I would think they could and should get input from say the Tech Valley of California, Seattle, Dallas, Miami and NY as well as Chicago.

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    I look at this as very dependant on one's skills. If you have the skills to operate these devices and drive safely, do so... but risk police intervention if it works out that you can't maintain a lane, swerve, forget to signal, etc. We already have laws on the books in nearly every state to write tickets for these infractions. If you cannot handle the distraction, pull over at your earliest convenience and adjust your radio station, use your cell phone, play Angry Birds, etc. Everyone shouldn't be penalized and dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

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    i agree with the 1st phase. because it would make things easier. faster media response is always nice and being able to do it with 1 hand is also nice. the next part im iffy on. while i dont think its a good idea to text and drive and driving while talking on the phone is against the law around here. but telling car makers to block these items in the car is stupid. idk maybe its for the better, but at the same time you still have stupid people on the streets therefore how big of a difference will this make. so people cant make a call useing their NAV system anymore.... whats to stop them from useing their real phone to Text, call, and surf the web. its these types of things i wish the government would think through before they even try.

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    It means more to you when you have a family in the car you want to protect......

    The roads are inherently not safe, regardless of the laws in place. If you love your family, don't let them leave your house... er, bunker. And if they ABSOLUTELY need to leave the house, only in an Armored Semi.

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