LaHood pushes automakers to limit in-car social media, entertainment

The new guidelines are meant to limit the amount of time drivers take their eyes off the road to two seconds in an era when electronic distractions have become ubiquitous.

“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” LaHood said in a statement. “These guidelines recognize that today’s drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need.”

The recommendations were issued by the agency’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which conducted a study finding that “visual-manual tasks” involving phones and other portable devices increased the risk of a crash by three times.
“The new study strongly suggests that visual-manual tasks can degrade a driver’s focus and increase the risk of getting into a crash up to three times,” said David L. Strickland, NHTSA Administrator.

The Transportation Department recommends technology that would disable the use of manual texting, social media, browsing and communication applications inside vehicles when they are not stopped and in park.

The guidance received immediate pushback from industry. The Auto Alliance, for example, pointed to NHTSA’s own statistics finding that 98 percent of distraction-related accidents have nothing to do with built-in systems.

“Drivers want that function in their dashboard systems, and we think it makes sense to provide it as a means of discouraging drivers from using hand-held phones [and] GPS systems,” the group said.