NHTSA Releases Guidelines to Curb Distracted Driving Deaths

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released voluntary guidelines to help stop distracted driving, which causes more than 10% of all U.S. roadway fatalities.

The guidelines extend to the most obvious distractions, like cell phones, eating, and smoking, to the less obvious, such as changing radio stations and checking GPS. The NHTSA website describes distracted driving as a deadly epidemic, devastating families throughout the country every single day. Although the rapid advancements in technology have had significant, unprecedented benefits in almost every faction of American life, the use of new technologies on the roads is proving to have catastrophic consequences.

Phase I of the NHTSA’s guidelines focus mainly on automakers, informing them precisely how to make modern cars safer without compromising on the new technology consumers want. The agency established criteria for the electronics installed in modern cars. Currently, automakers design and manufacture these parts so that drivers are required to either take their eyes off the road or hands off the wheel. The agency is attempting to inform automakers how to make these necessary features safer and more easily operated while driving.

The recommendations include limiting the time a driver must be distracted to two seconds at a time, with a total of twelve seconds. The agency also recommends disabling several electronic functions unless the vehicle is in park, functions that include manual text entry for GPS, texting, internet use, video-based entertainment, communications (such as Skype or facetime), and the display of social media and advertisements.

These guidelines stem from the agency’s recent study on the impact of hand-held and hands-free cell phone use. This study found that texting while driving doubled the risk of experiencing a crash over those who were driving without distractions. The study also found that manually using a cell phone (compared to using it hands-free) also carried an increased risk of crashing.

Other, more specific recommendations include limiting stereo electronic displays so that they show no more than 30 characters and do not scroll. This guideline was based on similar regulations from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

We recently reported on a similar study conducted by researchers at Texas A & M University, which concluded with surprising and troubling results. It was the first study to ever compare traditional type-texting to voice-texting in drivers in a realistic situation. More than 40 participants were told to drive an experimental course first without any distractions at all, then while texting in the traditional form, and then while using hands-free texting.

All drivers took twice as long to react then while not distracted, regardless of the method of texting they used. This was because eye contact on the road was significantly decreased and because the drivers were using their brainpower for something other than driving. Additionally, somewhat surprisingly, voice-texting actually took longer because drivers had to go back and correct the mistakes the device made in their message. Both methods caused significant impairment and dangerously decreased response time.

The biggest problem researchers noted was that all drivers actually felt they were safer when using voice-texting methods. This indicates that the majority drivers throughout the country believe the same thing, falsely thinking that using hands-free methods to text is safe – or at least safer than typing to text.

The guidelines the NHTSA recently released are just phase I out of III, and are all part of the Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving. Phase II will detail portable electronic devices brought into vehicles and phase III will cover voice-activated systems.

It is important to note that these guidelines may be cited by attorneys in wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits against automakers. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight these recent recommendations so the public is aware that major steps are being taken to curb distracted driving and its devastating consequence. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible.

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