Combating distracted driving is a complicated issue for safety regulators and auto makers, alike. Laws against text messaging, while well-intentioned, may be difficult or even impossible to enforce prior to a car accident occurring. Telling auto makers to voluntarily reduce the gadgets that can distinguish their vehicles from competitors is not an easy sell. If the car-buying public wants another screen to look at or toy to play with, asking car makers to ignore that fact is problematic.
Studies have shown that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds or longer greatly increases your chances of crashing. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood indicated that 3,000 fatalities and 387,000 injuries were the result of distracted driving in 2011. With that knowledge in hand, the DOT released its final version of voluntary guidelines for automakers. These guidelines would limit on-board electronics to those that can be operated at a glance. Devices that allow for texting and Web browsing would be disabled anytime the vehicle was not stopped and in park.
Many new vehicles come equipped with navigation systems and entertainment packages meant to make riding in a car a more pleasant experience. Safety experts understand that the pleasures of driving should never outweigh the most important function of the driver: safe operation of the vehicle. The DOT is simply asking auto makers to help drivers keep their attention on the road, where it belongs.
Source: CNN, “‘Two second’ safety guideline for cars of the future,” by Mike M. Ahlers, 24 April 2013