There is no question that the primary responsibility to remain distraction-free behind the wheel lies with the driver.
However, given the huge scope of the problem and the enormous price we pay as a society, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is requesting some help from vehicle manufacturers.
Our Birmingham car accident lawyers understand that USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood has released a list of voluntary guidelines for automakers that would help to reduce in-vehicle distractions, thereby making us all safer.
The recommendations, which include limits on built-in electronic devices for navigation, communication and entertainment, are part of the NHTSA’s Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving.
LaHood called the problem “epidemic,” and said that while motorists undoubtedly are appreciative of the ever-advancing technologies available at their fingertips – otherwise they wouldn’t continue to seek them out – the auto industry has a responsibility to strike a balance.
Per the guidelines, the specific criteria for in-vehicle devices involves recommendations to limit the amount of time a motorist has to take her eyes off the road to perform any task to 2 to 12 seconds.
Even that, we believe, is a stretch. Consider that if you are traveling at 65 miles per hour and an in-vehicle electronic device requires 12 seconds of your time, you will have traveled 1,143.6 feet during that time. That is about one-fifth of a mile that you will have traveled without ever looking at the road.
To put it another way, that is the length of more than three football fields.
A fatal crash can occur in an instant.
Consequently, the NHTSA has made one of its recommendations that certain devices be disabled while the vehicle is in motion. These would include manual text entry for Internet browsing or text messaging, video conferencing or video phoning and certain text pages, such as those used for social media. This forces people who are using some of the most dangerous – i.e., most distracting – technologies to pull over before they engage.
The NHTSA’s recent report on hand-held and hands-free cell phone use and the impact on driver performance and safety found that those using handheld electronic devices upped their risk of a crash by three-fold.
Although the study didn’t specifically focus on vehicle built-in electronic devices, one can readily assume, based on the average amount of focus these things require, that the distraction level is about the same.
Getting automakers on board with this kind of thing might be key, especially considering the recent report by USA Today, which reveals that texting law bans appear to be poorly enforced.
In Alabama, for example, the anti-texting law is a primary law, meaning officers can pull you over solely for that offense. Since the law went into effect last August, only 155 citations have been issued. That’s 155 citations in 10 months, or 300 days, which breaks down to about one citation every other day – throughout the entire state.
Clearly, more needs to be done. Getting auto manufacturers on board is a good start.
Voluntary guidelines reduce visual-manual distraction – the greatest safety risk to drivers in NHTSA’s new study, April 23, 2013, U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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