Canadian Underwriter

U.S. government publishes guidelines to curb distracted driving

April 24, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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New distraction guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk connected to electronic devices built into vehicles.

Distracted driver

The voluntary 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 12 seconds total.

“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

U.S.“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.”

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 risk of getting into a crash increases by three times when the visual-manual tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices are performed, according to The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk, a study released by the NHTSA.

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 – including reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing the number – increased the risk 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,” David L. Strickland, an NHTSA administrator, noted in a statement. “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 guidelines and research are part of LaHood’s Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving. 

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