Automakers Urged to Limit Dashboard Distractions by DOT/NHTSA

By Michael Acampora on 17 February 2012
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On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued proposed voluntary guidelines intended to limit drivers from distractions from within a vehicle

Studies have shown that the risk of a crash increases dramatically when drivers take their eyes off the road for as little as two seconds.  In many newer vehicles, a driver’s attention can be diverted with notifications from the car’s infotainment system, which could include text messages and social media notifications. In addition as such infotainment systems become more popular, once simple tasks, such as changing the radio station, have become increasingly complex.

The proposal would create a list of specific criteria recommended for automakers to adhere to when designing and installing electronic devices (such as navigation and entertainment systems) in cars.

“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 DOT Secretary Ray LaHood in a written statement. “These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.”

The NHTSA released Phase I of its guidelines, which include recommendations for automobile manufactures 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 guidelines also recommend disabling visual activities such as manual texting,  manual Internet browsing, manual dialing, and the manual entry of an address into the navigation system as well as displaying more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.

Future phases will attempt to address the distractions created by devices that are brought into vehicles and used while driving including smart phones, tablets and personal (aftermarket) navigation systems.  They will also focus on speech-activated controls.



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