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NHTSA Releases Guidelines to Minimize Distracted Driving

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April 30, 2013—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released distraction guidelines that encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk connected to electronic devices built into their vehicles.

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 off the road to use them.

The guidelines include recommendations to limit the time drivers must take their eyes off the road to perform any task to two seconds at a time and twelve seconds total.

The guidelines also recommend disabling several options unless the vehicle is in park, including manual text entry for text messaging and internet browsing; video phoning or conferencing; and display of certain types of text, including text messages, web pages and social media content.

"Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation's roadways," said Ray LaHood, U.S. Department of Transportation secretary. "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 recommendations outlined in the guidelines are consistent with the findings of a new NHTSA naturalistic driving study, which showed that visual-manual tasks associated with hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of a crash by three times.

The guidelines and research announced are part of Secretary LaHood’s “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving,” a comprehensive plan to work with federal, state and local partners, the automotive industry and safety community to address distraction.

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