The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued its first-ever guidelines designed to limit the use of automobile infotainment systems, such as cell phone systems and music devices, while driving. The guidelines were issued by the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are part of a series of guidelines that the NHTSA is expected to deliver in an effort to reduce the hazards of distracted driving.
The first set of guidelines included recommendations that automobile manufacturers take steps to:
- Reduce complexity and task length required by the device;
- Limit device operation to one hand only (allowing 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; and
- Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation.
The DOT’s recommendations also include the disablement of operations such as visual-manual text messaging, internet browsing, social media browsing, 10-digit phone dialing, and displaying more than 30 characters of unrelated driving text. Conversely, 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 hazard.
“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.”
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland expects the guidelines are expected to be more effective than mandates, with the government seeking full voluntary compliance by working with auto manufacturers and other industry groups.
The next set of guidelines is expected to address aftermarket components, such as portable electronic devices or navigation systems, with a third set of guidelines addressing voice-activated controls.
Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nationwide ban on texting and making phone calls while driving. The NTSB’s recommendation specifically asked all 50 states and Washington D.C. to ban all nonemergency use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices for all drivers. The NTSB also recommended that states use the NHTSA method of high-visibility enforcement to support such bans, and that states implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new laws.
Readers are reminded that Illinois currently prohibits all drivers from text messaging, emailing, and using the Internet while driving. In Chicago, all drivers must use a hands-free device when talking on a cell phone.