Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Putting Brakes on Driving Distractions Safety Council Suggests Voluntary Guidelines to Carmakers to Make Roads Safer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Putting Brakes on Driving Distractions Safety Council Suggests Voluntary Guidelines to Carmakers to Make Roads Safer

Article excerpt

Maybe someday the government will require automakers to develop technology that automatically updates the Facebook status of drivers who are killed in crashes while checking their Facebook pages.

But for now, faced with an array of new on-board gadgets that threaten to worsen the deadly problem of distracted driving, transportation officials are proposing voluntary guidelines rather than rules for making the roads safer.

"As technology evolves, cell phones aren't the only distraction available in vehicles," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a Thursday conference call with reporters. More and more vehicles have navigation systems, and carmakers are rolling out vehicles with built-in ability to search the Internet and surf social media.

Super Bowl viewers may recall a Chevy Cruze commercial with a young man driving home from a date, checking Facebook and hearing that the objet de son affection has proclaimed it the "best first date ever."

That system, because it is activated by voice commands and delivers audio responses, complies with the new guidelines issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If the young man drives off the road from sheer euphoria, it won't be Detroit's fault.

The guidelines, the first of their kind to be issued by NHTSA, ask automakers to make devices that can be operated while keeping at least one hand on the wheel at all times, not looking away from the road for longer than two seconds at a time and without having unnecessary visual information within the driver's field of view.

They also recommend that cars automatically disable any devices that require the driver's visual or manual input to access the Internet, dial a phone number, enter an address to a GPS system, send or receive texts or browse social media, unless the car is stopped and shifted into park.

"We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles with the tools and conveniences expected by today's drivers," said David Strickland, NHTSA administrator. …

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