Guidelines seek to end distractions, social media while driving

The Department of Transportation is calling for an end to distractions caused by in-car infotainment systems, which are bringing navigation, music and even social networking apps into the cabin of our rides.
(Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times)

The U.S. Department of Transportation doesn’t want you tweeting on Twitter, poking on Facebook, or giving a “thumbs up” to new music on Pandora when you’re behind the wheel -- unless your car is parked.

And to that end, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Thursday the “first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices.”

Translated, LaHood and the Transportation Department are calling for an end to distractions caused by our in-car infotainment systems, which are increasingly relying on touch screens to operate and bringing navigation, music and even social networking apps into the cabin of our rides.

The proposed guidelines for automakers are Phase I of what will probably end up being a three-phase effort to cut down on distracted driving.


The department said for Phase II it is considering proposals that “might address devices or systems that are not built into the vehicle but are brought into the vehicle and used while driving, including aftermarket and portable personal electronic devices such as navigation systems, smartphones, electronic tablets and pads, and other mobile communications devices.”

A third set of proposed guidelines, Phase III, may address “voice-activated controls to further minimize distraction in factory-installed, aftermarket, and portable devices.”

For now, the guidelines are all voluntary, but the department said it is looking to give automakers and the aftermarket some boundaries to ensure safety.

“The proposed voluntary guidelines would apply to communications, entertainment, information-gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle,” the department said.


The guidelines, which were issued by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (better known as NHTSA) follow President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal, which as the department pointed out, “includes $330 million over six years for distracted-driving programs that increase awareness of the issue and encourage stakeholders to take action.”

In California, it’s illegal to text and access email while driving and federal agencies have been working for months to create similar national laws.

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