Distracted driving has been a big concern for Washington State as well as across the country. In 2010, Washington legislators passed a law that issued $124 tickets to people seen driving while on a cell phone without using a hands free device. Unfortunately, studies have shown that just because someone doesn’t have a phone glued to their face obstructing 50% of their peripheral vision doesn’t mean that they aren’t distracted and just as much of a danger on the road.

Drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into a serious crash, and engaging in a phone conversation even using a hands-free device reduces the focus on driving by 37%. This much of a distraction is tantamount to drunk diving. According to NHTSA statistics, 5,474 people were killed and about 448,000 were personally injured in distracted driving accidents in 2009.

So, is that flashy new device glowing on your dashboard making you safer? Ray LaHood says no.

NHTSA Hearings With Car Manufacturers

New federal guidelines laid out by LaHood and published in February in the Federal Register recommend that manufacturers make it impossible for drivers to perform many functions while a vehicle is in motion. These functions include:

  • Ability to send or look at text messages
  • Browse the Internet
  • Tweet or use social media such as Facebook
  • Enter information in navigation systems
  • Enter 10-digit phone numbers
  • Receive any type of text information of more than 30 characters unrelated to driving

Over the past two years there have been several summits hosted by both the congress and senate to highlight the dangers of distracted driving. This push towards awareness of the real dangers have resulted in a series of 3 hearings–the first of which was yesterday—in which automakers laid out their commitment to safety by stating that they can make up fleets lines of vehicles safer as they continue to install electronic products that car buyers want to use while behind the wheel.

“When a device or feature is integrated into an automobile’s driver-vehicle interfaces, it is designed to be used in a way that helps the driver keep their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel,” Rob Strassburger, vice president for safety at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told the NHTSA committee in prepared testimony.

The idea of not installing features that consumers want is a tough call for manufacturers who know that features could be the make or break point in the decision making process when the customer is standing in the showroom ready to buy a new car. Even though safety is a major selling point for vehicles over the last two decades, features are the “wow-factor” that manufacturers may be reluctant to budge on.

“Our first goal is to reduce the complexity and the amount of time required to use electronic devices,”Strickland said. “Our second goal is to disable operations of various in-vehicle electronic devices while driving, unless the devices are intended for passenger use and cannot be reasonably accessed or seen by the driver.”

How Effective Will The Guidelines Be?

These guidelines wouldn’t restrict the use of other electronic alternatives used by the driver if they choose to drive distracted. This is an unfortunate reality surrounding these new policies, however, the main point is to keep driver’s eyes on the road and away from the display unless absolutely necessary.

One of the ways of doing this is to utilize voice command as much as possible for virtually every aspect of the operation of the car from the radio to the temperature of the car. The technology already exists, and though generally only available in higher end vehicle, it is destined to be added to all vehicles as competition and development costs dictate.

Another suggestion forwarded by Strassburger to the committee was to raise the display slightly in the configuration of the dash in order to allow the driver to gain information at a glance.

He urged NHTSA to finalize a single package of guidelines so that manufacturers can create systems for integrating portable devices into the overall on-board electronics scheme safely.

NHTSA plans to hold additional hearings on the proposed guidelines Thursday in Chicago and Friday in Los Angeles.

Let Phillips Law Firm help you with your injury accident or defective device claim.

The new features in cars are generally as dangerous as people utilize them. Yes, web browsing and live streaming are a little ridiculous and shouldn’t really be allowed in a car, but drivers have been punching away at radio dials in cars for decades now. Has that activity resulted in accidents? Yes. Does the fact that the radio and other features will be voice actived help? Without research, we can’t say, but we can hope, because all of those new features are admittedly pretty neat.

If you or someone you know has suffered a serious personal injury after getting into a car accident with a distracted driver, then you need skilled legal council to represent you to assure that you get the compensation you deserve. Call the Seattle car accident lawyers at Phillips Law Firm for a free consultation.