NHTSA fights vehicle-based distraction with safety guidelines

Posted on in Car Accidents

Distracted driving is a common topic of legislation and traffic safety conversation. When most think of it, they envision drivers on their cellphones, texting and driving. But distraction comes in other forms, some of which are built into the features of drivers’ cars.

Many newer cars come equipped with more than just automatic windows and seat warmers. They now come with internal computer systems with navigation programs, music programs and more. Basically, some drivers have laptops built into their vehicles. Traffic safety advocates might call the in-car convenience a built-in distracted driving risk that endangers motorists.


USA Today reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is shifting focus from cellphone distractions behind the wheel to distractions that are part of a vehicle's make-up. It is calling on auto makers to alter the technologies they build into cars. Specifically, NHTSA wants companies to avoid adding technology that would require drivers' hands. Instead, companies could add systems that are voice-operated and that require less hand-eye coordination that leads to distraction.

It is worthwhile to note that the recommendations are just that: suggestions. Car makers will not be legally required to change the computer systems in their products. Since companies often prioritize profit over anything else, auto manufacturers will want to keep elements in their products that appeal to buyers. Hopefully, voice activation and improved safety are what drivers are looking for in a vehicle.  

Distracted driving is negligent driving. Someone who is injured because a driver isn't focusing on the road has legal rights to hold the careless party accountable. Whether an accident was caused by cellphone distraction or in-vehicle technology, the outcome is the same for accident victims. They are hurt because a driver failed to drive responsibly.

Source:  USA Today, "Feds limit driver distractions in cars," Jayne O'Donnell and Chris Woodyard, April 23, 2013

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