According to the latest available numbers, there were 3,092 deaths due to distracted driving in 2012. Because of numbers like that, as well as accident claims that don’t cause death, but still cost money, many states have instituted laws banning texting while driving, mandating hands-free apparatus for drivers with cell phones, and imposing severe penalties for motorists who use any kind of electronic, hand-held communications devices behind the wheel.
But the U.S. government believes more should be done. In order to reduce the number of distracted driving fatalities, the Obama administration would like automakers to impost limitations on the types of vehicle technologies that allow texting and/or cell phone calling while a car is moving.
To this end, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has proposed a collection of voluntary measures that would create new safety guidelines for the hands-free entertainment, navigation, and phone calling systems that are nearly ubiquitous in modern vehicles.
Mainly targeted toward younger drivers, the safety measures in question include disabling any on-board electronic devices that a driver could use while a vehicle is in motion. This includes internet browsing, texting, and access to social media. It also represents a compromise: originally LaHood wanted GM, Ford, Chrysler and other automakers to restrict all hands-free communication devices as well as other dashboard electronics that have become popular options and key selling points.
The proposed guidelines are subject to a 60-day public comment period. Hearings, which will be held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will begin in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. next month.