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New guidelines introduced to curb distracted driving

Distracted driving has become a safety issue in Houston and throughout Texas with the proliferation of smartphones and interactive media equipment in new cars. More than just talking on cell phones, distracted driving includes texting while driving, paying attention to turn-by-turn GPS modules and mobile DVD players.

Because of this, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has essentially made it a personal mission to limit elements in vehicles that contribute to distracted driving. In fact, he believes that texting and web browsing interfaces should be disabled except when the vehicle is in park. It is almost as if he is acutely aware of the number of people who have been injured (and killed) due to distracted driving.

The latest recommendation involves limitations in media equipment that will keep drivers' eyes on the road. To do this, the Department of Transportation released voluntary guidelines for automakers that will require drivers to look away only momentarily to reach (or control) media functions. These guidelines would apply to hands free applications that control cell phone use, DVD players and Internet based features (e.g. voice-based text messages and turn-by-turn directions).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted studies that measured how often and how long drivers looked away from the road to operate modules believed to distract the driver. According to a USA Today report, 204 drivers were observed using video cameras for one month. While only 10 percent were observed using cell phones, it was a tell-tale sign that more focus is needed on curbing distracted driving.

The recommendations will apply to all trucks and cars weighing less than 10,000 pounds. They will not become mandatory since more research must be conducted.

Source: USA Today.com, 'Two second' safety guideline for cars of the future, April 23, 2013

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