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With all the new gadgets in cars these days it’s no wonder the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is concerned about distracted driving. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on February 16 the first-ever proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices. This proposal came after President Obama’s FY budget request of $330 million over the next six years for distracted driving programs.

At this time, Phase I of the guidelines does not include heavy vehicles, but will be examined at a later date.

“Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit onAmerica’s roadways — that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel,” said LaHood. “These guidelines are a major step forward in identifying real solutions to tackle the issue of distracted driving for drivers of all ages.”

The NHTSA recognizes that manufacturer’s want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences that we as Americans have come to expect. The guidelines would offer guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want — without disrupting a driver’s attention or sacrificing safety.

The proposed Phase I distraction guidelines include recommendations for:

  • Reduce complexity and task length required by the device
  • Limit device operation to one hand only (leaving the other hand to remain on the steering wheel to control the vehicle)
  • Limit individual off-road glances requiring for device operation to no more than two seconds in duration
  • Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view, and
  • Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operations

The proposed guidelines would also recommend disabling of the following operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the device is intended for passengers, or if the vehicle is stopped and the transmission shift lever is in park:

  • Visual-manual text messaging
  • Visual-manual Internet browsing
  • Visual-manual social media browsing
  • Visual-manual navigation system destination entry by address
  • Visual-manual 10-digit phone dialing, and
  • Displaying to the driver more than 30 characters of text unrelated to the driving task.

The Phase I guidelines published in the Feb. 16 Federal Register are open to the public for 60 days to comment on the proposal. After the agency reviews, analyzes and responds to public input, the final guidelines will be issued.

Stay tuned to for information on Phase II and Phase III.