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Safety guidelines issued for in-car electronics

In recent years, Americans have continued to learn more and more about the dangers of distracted driving. In 2011 alone, about 3,000 people died and 387,000 people were injured due to distracted driving. So, while we all know that texting, e-mailing or fumbling with the radio while driving can be deadly, consumers are continuing to demand more and more in-car distractions. From navigation equipment to backseat DVD players, many Michigan residents have cars that are full of technological distractions.

This is a troubling trend because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that performing such "visual-manual tasks" while driving increases one's chances of being in a car accident by three times. As a result, NHTSA is asking automakers to ensure that any devices that are installed in vehicles--such as GPS systems, for example--take only seconds to operate.

NHTSA issued the voluntary guidelines to automakers just yesterday, explaining that on-board devices should not require a driver's eyes or hands for longer than two seconds at once--12 seconds total.

These guidelines do not apply to separate devices that drivers bring into cars, like cellphones. NHTSA discourages cellphone use behind the wheel, and says that people should only text or browse the Internet when the car is parked. Many people here in Michigan are guilty of texting while driving at slow speeds when they think it is safe, but in fact this act presents a severe danger to pedestrians.

The guidelines for automakers are currently voluntary rather than mandatory because NHTSA believes that more study into this issue is necessary. It is very important for automakers to avoid installing dangerous distractions right into vehicles. However, it is also important for drivers themselves to be responsible and to avoid any distractions.

Source: CNN, "'Two second' safety guideline for cars of the future," Mike M. Ahlers, April 24, 2013

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