New DOT guidelines aim to reduce distracted driving

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The U.S. Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration, recently released voluntary guidelines designed to help automakers create safer in-car technology by limiting the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road.

Specifically, the guidelines would limit the amount of time a person can interact with the vehicle’s audio / video system to two seconds. Furthermore, systems would be limited to just six screen touches over the course of 12 seconds while manual text entry and the display of websites, social media, books and other text would be banned while the vehicle is in motion.

Current guidelines allow drivers to read messages and perform complex tasks while the vehicle is moving slower than 5 mph. They also permit up to 10 screen touches over the course of 20 seconds while driving at normal speeds.

During a conference call on the matter, transportation secretary Ray LaHood said distracted driving is unsafe and responsible. Officials further pointed out that more than 3,000 people were killed in accidents involving distracted driving in 2011. Another 387,000 were injured during the same period, we’re told.

Officials hope the guidelines will find their way to manufacturers over the next few years, giving them plenty of time to revamp entertainment and navigation systems to comply. The guidelines are all voluntary although the agencies said they would look to give manufacturers incentives to comply.

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