Car gadgets could soon be designed to reduce distracted driving

Telling drivers it’s a bad idea to fiddle with cell phones and electronics while they drive has been an ineffective way to prevent driving. In 2011, about 3,000 people died and 387,000 were injured in accidents with distracted drivers. As a way to help curb the epidemic, the federal government is taking a new approach to keep drivers’ eyes on the road. The Department of Transportation recently issued new guidelines for auto manufacturers.

The guidelines are designed to give automakers guidance about the electronics that are frequently installed in new vehicles. These electronics are secondary to driving, and include hands-free phones, navigation equipment, DVD players and Internet-enabled devices. These features are in high demand by consumers, but they also contribute to the nation’s distracted driving epidemic.

The guidelines do not prohibit the devices. Instead, they appear aimed at reducing the dangers. One basis for the recommendations is a two-second rule. Drivers’ chances of being in a car accident multiply when they take their eyes off the road for longer than two seconds. The new guidelines ask the automakers to make sure that drivers can operate electronics that come with the vehicle for no longer than two seconds at a time.

Also under the guidelines, text messaging, browsing the Internet and other activities that take significant amounts of time should be allowed only when a car is stopped, according to the DOT guidelines. Even at slow speeds, texting can cause accidents that are dangerous for pedestrians.

The guidelines are voluntary. The DOT is asking for them to be in place in the next three years on cars, trucks and buses up to 10,000 pounds. While these measures could help reduce distracted driving, a commitment from drivers to eliminate electronic distractions completely would go even further toward making our streets safe.

Source: CNN,”‘Two second’ safety guideline for cars of the future,” Mike Ahlers, April 24, 2013

  • Our law firm represents clients who have been injured in car accidents. For more information, please view our New York distracted driving page.