The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced upcoming public hearings based on the findings of a recently published survey on distracted driving and draft guidelines they are introducing to discourage the introduction of distracting devices into automobiles. Publc hearings are being held this week in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The hearings will discuss recommendations by the NTHSA regarding the installation of distracting devices into auotmobiles. They apply to communications, entertainment systems, navigation devices, and computers that are being added both by automobile manufacturers and after market retailers or individual vehicle owners. The guidelines apply specifically to devices that are not necessary to the operation of the vehicle, but that require the driver to read, respond, and manipulate the device.

The guidelines list the activities that the agency has found to have the potential or proven ability to distract a driver and thereby cause an accident or unsafe driving conditions. The guidelines suggest that devices that achieve “distraction levels” should be re-designed so as to not allow operation by the driver while the vehicle is in motion. The guidelines have been developed specifically for U.S. automobile makers.

The announcement by the NHTSA comes just days after President Obama announced that his FY 2013 budget contains more than $300 million to both study and tackle the problem of distracted driving. Specifically, the guidelines make recommendations to::

*Reduce complexity and the time required to complete a task on a device;

*Limit device operation to one hand only, allowing the other to remain on the steering wheel;

*Limit information displayed on a screen to allow for full absorption within less than two seconds of glancing at the device;

*Limit unnecessary information in the driver’s field of view;

*Limit the amount of manual input to reduce driver interaction with the device.

The guidelines go one step further and recommend eliminating or disarming manual/visual texting mechanisms, entertainment systems that can be seen by the driver, social media access, and complex navigation systems. In addition, if a device displays more than 30 characters of text to a driver at one time, it is considered “unsafe.”

Many people are watching these developments, not only in Washington, but in Detroit and around the world. If the U.S. is successful in achieving voluntary changes in system designs, the hope is that fewer accidents will be caused by distracted drivers and no mandatory rules will be enacted.

If you are in an accident that is caused by a distracted driver, contact David Van Sant, an Alpharetta accident lawyer who has experience representing victims of automobile and truck accidents in Georgia.

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