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NHTSA Distracted Driving Guidelines

While there are plenty of things that can distract a driver behind the wheel, the cell phone has become a top concern for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Cell phone use contributes to about 1,161 crash-related injuries in the U.S. every day. Cell phones engage the driver in all three forms of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.

Using a cell phone to read, text, talk, email, or scroll through social media sites takes a driver’s attention away from the primary driving task – physically and mentally. Due to the highly dangerous nature of using a mobile device while driving, the NHTSA has issued special crash prevention guidelines.

NHTSA Guidelines: Phase 1

Back in 2013, the NHTSA released voluntary guidelines for Phase 1 of an anti-distraction campaign. Phase 1 applied to vehicle manufacturers in an effort to help decrease the risk of driver distraction. The guidelines established specific criteria for a vehicle’s installed electronic devices. According to the NHTSA, any original equipment that requires a driver to take his or her hands or eyes off the road for use should require no more than two seconds to complete each task and 12 seconds total.

If a manufacturer abided by these specifications, it could potentially reduce the number of distraction-related accidents. Drivers could utilize devices more easily, without the need to take attention away from the road for too long.

The NHTSA’s guidelines recommend manufacturers disable certain operations unless the driver stops the vehicle, such as manual text entry, video entertainment or communication, and text or web content displays. If a driver is unable to access any of these forms of distraction unless he or she stops the vehicle and puts it in park, it would make distracted driving via mobile device much more difficult. The voluntary guidelines for manufacturers in Phase 1 are supposed to enhance a driver’s ability to safely control a vehicle without distraction.

NHTSA Guidelines: Phase 2

Recently, the NHTSA released Phase 2 of its voluntarily guidelines to reduce driver distraction. Phase 2 focuses on cell phone use, targeting cell phone manufacturing companies. The NHTSA’s Phase 2 guidelines use the best research available to give manufacturers and mobile device designers ideas to build products that reduce distraction while driving. The voluntary cell phone guidelines give advice such as:

  • Enabling device pairing. Manufacturers should create devices that can pair with a vehicle’s infotainment system, enabling hands-free talking and applications. Device pairing should have “Driver Mode,” which is a simplified version of full mobile device use. This compromise preserves the functionality of the mobile device while allowing the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
  • Device lockouts while driving. Similar to recommendations in Phase 1, Phase 2 encourages locking drivers out of certain activities that interfere with driving abilities, such as video displays, certain images, text displays, internet content, eBooks, and social media content. This content would only be available to a driver in a stopped car put in park.

Phase 2 of NHTSA’s anti-driver-distraction guidelines strives to allow drivers access to their mobile devices in a safe, prudent manner. While the NHTSA recommends putting your phone away completely while driving, it wants to work with device manufacturers to come up with solutions for safe device access. With the voluntary guideline approach, the NHTSA hopes to put an end to device-related distractions for good.

The NHTSA plans to combine Phase 1 and Phase 2 of its voluntary guidelines into a single document after it finalizes the details of Phase 2. The NHTSA is currently accepting comments from the public regarding its proposed Phase 2 and the future combination of both phases into one document.

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