The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced its first federally proposed guidelines to push automobile manufacturers to figure out ways to minimize distractions associated with in-vehicle electronic devices.
Karen Aldana, a DOT spokeswoman, said the voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information-gathering, navigation devices and functions that aren’t required to safely operate a vehicle. This is Phase I of the proposed guidelines, she added
“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 U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
He said the proposed guidelines are a step forward to mend this issue.
Aldana said Phase I of the guidelines was published in Thursday’s Federal Register, which can be accessed by visiting, www.gpoaccess.gov. The public will be able to comment on the proposal for 60 days.
The final guidelines, she continued, will be issued after they are reviewed, assayed, and the public has responded, she said. The administration will hold public hearings for comment in March in Los Angeles, Chicago and the District of Columbia.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the implementation dates will vary, and manufacturers will apply the guidelines when they design or re-design a vehicle. “In fact, many manufacturers have already begun taking into consideration concerns such as the complexity of the tasks involving an electronic device,” NHTSA officials said.
According to officials, in 2010, distracted driving caused an estimated 3,092 deaths, and hand-held cell phone use contributed to about 408 fatalities.
The guidelines, said Aldana, would set specific recommended criteria for electronic devices that require visual or manual operation by motorists, placed in vehicles when they’re manufactured. These guidelines were issued by the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, she added.
They are geared toward light vehicles, such as cars, SUVs, pick-up trucks, minivans and other vehicles that are not over 10,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight, she said.
The Phase I proposed guidelines are the first of a series of guidance documents the administration will issue, she said. The first wave of guidelines recommends criteria that manufacturers can utilize to assure the systems or devices they include in vehicles won’t distract the driver, she said.
The distractions include tasks not relevant to safely operating the vehicle, or devices that lure drivers’ eyes or hands for more than a limited duration, while guiding the vehicle.
“We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers,” said David Strickland, of the National Highway Safety Administration. He said the guidelines will not take away the features consumers of today want.
“NHTSA’s data shows that the vast majority of crashes occur because of dangerous behavior, including ... driving while distracted and driving too fast,” he added. “NHTSA is working hard to harness technology to help mitigate the effects of these risky behaviors.”
The Phase I proposed guidelines include:
• Reducing the complexity and task-time required by the device.
• Limit device operation to one hand only, to allow the other hand to stay on the steering wheel.
• Limit off-road glances toward the operation of the device up to two seconds.
• Limit excess visual information in the motorist’s field of view.
• Limit the number of manual inputs for the device’s operation.
The guidelines also suggest the disabling of the following operations:
• 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.
• Showing the driver over 30 characters of text not relative to the driving task.
The guidelines above will not affect devices that are intended for passenger use and can’t be accessed or viewed by the motorist, unless the vehicle is at a stop and the transmission shift lever is in park, said Aldana.
Phase II may address devices and systems that are not built into a vehicle, but installed in a vehicle and used while driving, she explained. Phase III may touch on voice-activated controls to further reduce distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket and portable devices.