Washington, D.C. – The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed the first-ever federal guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the risk of distraction by in-vehicle devices.

The proposed, voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle.

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

The guidelines proposed are first in a series of guidance documents NHTSA plans to issue to address sources of distraction that require use of the hands and/or diversion of the eyes from the primary task of driving. Electronic warning system functions such as forward collision of lane departure alerts would not be subject to the proposed guidelines, since they are intended to warn a driver of a potential crash and are not considered distracting devices.

“We recognize that vehicle manufacturers want to build vehicles that include the tools and conveniences expected by today’s American drivers,” said NHTSA administrator David Strickland. “The guidelines we’re proposing would offer real-world 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 1 guidelines include recommendations to reduce complexity and task length required by the device; limited device operation to one hand only; limit individual off-road glances required for device operation for no more than two seconds; limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view; and limit the amount of manual input required for device operation.

The guidelines would also recommend disabling specific operations by in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for use by passengers and cannot be reasonably accessed or seen by the driver, or unless the vehicle is stopped and in Park. These includes visual-manual text messaging, Internet browsing, social media browsing, navigation system destination entry by address, ten-digit phone dialling, or displaying more than 30 characters of text to the driver unrelated to the driving task.

NHTSA is also considering future Phase 2 proposed guidelines that might address devices or systems not built into the vehicle but used while driving, including aftermarket and portable devices such as navigation systems, smartphones, electronic tablets and pads, and other mobile communications devices. A third set of proposed guidelines may address voice-activated controls to further minimize distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket or portable devices.

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