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NHTSA wants to limit use of in-car touch screens

The government wants to limit how often drivers can use in-car touch screens in an effort to reduce distracted driving in the U.S. Traffic safety regulators recently issued guidelines to restrict the amount of time a driver can use in-car entertainment and navigational systems.

Traffic safety regulators also want to ban drivers from manually sending text messages, viewing social media and other websites on a cellphone when a vehicle is in motion. The Transportation Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hope that these guidelines will help reduce the high number of car accidents caused by distracted driving.

The guidelines for car manufacturers would reduce how long drivers can use in-car touch screens are voluntary guidelines and the NHTSA said they will be phased in over the next three years. The NHTSA offered the voluntary guidelines because they said they have been successful in the past. They may also give automakers incentives to comply with the guidelines.

Specifically, the guidelines would have auto manufacturers install devices that would limit these types of simple tasks to two seconds and more complex tasks to 12 seconds. The guidelines also say to freeze or shut down an in-car touch screen after 12 seconds to prevent drivers from using devices for longer amounts of time.

How did traffic safety regulators come up with voluntary guidelines? The guidelines were based on distracted driving studies that found drivers who looked at touch screens or hand-held devices were three times as likely to be in a car accident. Studies also reported that the most dangerous behaviors were texting, web browsing and dialing on a cellphone while driving.

The NHTSA estimates that over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving related car accidents in 2011, and that more than 387,000 people were injured. The NHTSA hopes that the new guidelines will prevent drivers from becoming distracted behind the wheel.

Source: Fosters, "US seeks voluntary limits on car touch screens," April 28, 2013

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