DOT Proposes 'Distraction' Guidelines for Cars

Feb 17, 2012, 5:31 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

The Department of Transportation has announced the first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk of in-vehicle electronic devices. The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information-gathering and navigation devices or any other functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle. The guidelines were released on the same day that the Governors Highway Safety Association released a study that found that deaths among 16 and 17 year old drivers in cars increased by 11 percent in the first 6 months of 2011, the first increase in eight years.

The guidelines were issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and would establish specific recommended criteria for electronic devices installed in vehicles at the time they are manufactured that require visual or manual operation by drivers.

According to NHTSA, these guidelines are the first in a series that they plan to issue to address distractions in a car, including devices that require use of the hands or diversion of the eyes while driving.

The first set of guidelines includes:

  • 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 required for device operation to no more than two seconds
  • Limit unnecessary visual information in the driver’s field of view
  • Limit the amount of manual inputs required for device operation

The Phase I guidelines were published in yesterday’s Federal Register and comments will be accepted for the next 60 days. Final guidelines will be issued after NHTSA reviews the responses.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.