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NHTSA proposes new rules to curb distracted driving

Last year, more than 3,000 Americans were killed in distracted driving accidents.

Much of the discussion around distracted driving car accidents has focused on the role of cellphones and other handheld devices. In response, many states have passed laws either banning or restricting the use of handheld mobile devices. California, for its part, prohibits texting while driving and requires drivers to use a hands-free device when making or receiving calls. California drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using a cellphone at all.

Although these laws have helped, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is concerned they may not do enough. Earlier this month, it held a series of hearings to discuss proposed voluntary guidelines governing in-car technology like navigation systems, media players and web browsers.

The move comes as automakers are offering an increasingly wide array of technological add-ons. In some vehicles, drivers can get directions, surf Facebook, start a new Pandora station and receive text messages, all from a computer screen implanted in their dashboard.

Regulations vs. Responsibility

Using a voice-activated integrated technology system may be “safer” than using a handheld cellphone, but is it “safe”?

Distraction is distraction, regardless of where it comes from. If the NHTSA’s rules take effect, they would limit the duration of each individual contact with an onboard technological system.

These regulations may make onboard devices safer than they otherwise would be. But, the safest move would be for drivers to choose not to use them in the first place.

All drivers can help minimize the risk of accidents by focusing on driving and only interacting with their devices when the car is stopped.

Source: Fox News, “As Car Tech Advances, Can Distracted Drivers Keep Up?” John R. Quain, March 13, 2012.

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