Associations Mixed on Agency’s Driver Distraction Guidelines

A new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found drivers distracted by handheld phones or other portable devices are three times more likely to crash. The agency has released a set of voluntary guidelines, but associations' response is mixed.

They aren’t rules for the road, but a federal agency’s new driver-distraction guidelines nonetheless got associations talking last week.

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued voluntary guidelines for drivers to minimize in-vehicle distractions from communication, entertainment, and electronic devices.

“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. “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.”

The guidelines recommend that a driver should only take his or her eyes off the road to perform any task for two seconds at a time and 12 seconds total, and texting, operating video-based entertainment systems, and surfing the Internet, should only take place when the vehicle is stopped or in park.

A new study done by the NHTSA found that drivers distracted by handheld phones or other portable devices are three times more likely to get into an accident. Texting increased the likelihood of crashing two times, and resulted in the driver’s eyes being off the road for a shocking average of 23.3 seconds total.

“The problem isn’t limited to drivers who text on their smartphones,” said Ellen Bloom, the senior director of federal policy for Consumers Union, to The Detroit Bureau. “There’s a serious concern about in-dash controls that may be very distracting when you’re behind the wheel. These guidelines are aimed at getting automakers to focus on safer tools in the dash that take less of your attention away from the road.”

While most associations showed support for the new guidelines, car manufacturers pointed to studies that showed smartphones and GPS aren’t the only ways a driver can be distracted.

A study by Erie Insurance Group found that 62 percent of distracted driving accidents resulting in fatalities were the result of drivers daydreaming or “being lost in thought.”

The Auto Alliance, an association of car manufacturers, expressed concern that the guidelines “only address the vehicle-integrated systems for which there are existing voluntary guidelines.” The organized urged the NHTSA to address the “98 percent of distraction-related accidents” caused by factors other than the car’s built-in system to come up with a “more comprehensive approach including mobile devices.”


Daniel Ford

By Daniel Ford

Daniel Ford is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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