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Should The NHTSA Update Its Distracted Driving Guidelines?

According to several news agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has demonstrated a desire to update the federal distracted driving guidelines in order to encompass new standards concerning features that in-car touch screens offer to drivers.

As soon as the agency publicly reported it would be working on changing the guidelines to curb distracted driving in order to push automakers to develop safer and more user-friendly devices, some experts reportedly claimed that bans on certain devices would only make drivers more distracted by pushing them to go back to using their cell phones.

The new guidelines show that automakers must perform tests that would demonstrate that the infotainment system in the vehicles is safe and wouldn’t pose a serious crash risk if implemented.

The new guidelines would push for a modernization of the technology and developing of safer features. Car companies can comply if they fit necessary, which could render these guidelines simply meaningless.

Some believe that simple guidelines would do little to address while others think automakers have a history of following these guidelines and coming up with vehicles that meet the new standards without throwing a fit.

Some of the new guidelines address the dangers associated with several distractions that are commonly linked to auto accidents. Talking on a cell phone for an instance could affect drivers in a much different way than listening to the radio or an audio book. Distractions associated with using a phone could reduce the driver’s reaction time frame, increasing the risk of an accident.

Studies show that using a hands-free device to talk or text while behind the wheel could also pose a serious risk. Drivers who are often distracted miss stop signs, lights, other vehicles and road signs.  Distraction could reduce reaction time and make pedestrians and other drivers vulnerable since the distracted driver tends to fail to look around and see what’s going on with the road.

Touch screens nowadays offer so many new features and technologies that focusing on driving alone is becoming increasingly difficult.

The NHTSA can set rules for automakers. While coming up with voluntary guidelines could be helpful, it might not be enough, safety experts say. Rules related to restricting how distracting the in-car touch screens can be could help to curb distraction and make drivers more focused on the road ahead.

Critics say that while safety guidelines that could take the shape of regulation should be imposed, it’s not a good idea for it to happen now. The technology is developing and smartphones are changing quickly. It’s important to see where the technology goes before creating rigid rules around it.

To learn more about this issue and how the NHTSA is attempting to address it, follow this link.

About the Author
The Vachon Law Firm is based in Southern California and focuses exclusively on consumer protection litigation.