Potential distractions for new car drivers are popping up as quickly as automakers can cram new touch screens and apps into the cars being sold.
“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “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.”
But automakers will need to get on board if those regulations are going to save anything because they’re voluntary. Regardless, they establish “specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured,” NHTSA said in a statement today.
The guidelines aim to limit the time a driver needs to look away from the road to two seconds at a time. They also recommend disabling certain functions while the car is moving. Those include manual text entry for sending a text message or Internet browsing, video calling or any video-based entertainment, and displaying text messages or social media content.
Those recommendations are based on findings from a new study that suggests visual-manual tasks like typing make drivers three times more likely to crash. Interestingly, the same study found that actually talking on a cell phone doesn’t increase that risk. Instead, the risk lies in any activity that takes a driver’s eyes away from the road.
Hands-free texting through voice recognition aims to change that, but a new study by the Texas Transportation Institute suggests that sort of system is just as dangerous. Voice-to-text programs actually take longer to use, and in that sense could keep drivers distracted longer if a driver is misunderstood.
The study asked 43 licensed drivers to pilot a 2009 Ford Explorer through a closed course for about 10 minutes at 30 mph. It found that performance was roughly the same between manual and voice texting.