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DOT’s LaHood announces new safety guidelines for averting crashes

New safety guidelines proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation for Ohio drivers and their peers across the country will serve “to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need,” says DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

LaHood has long been a strong regulatory pitchman for promoting on-board technologies and gadgetries that enhance motorists’ safety, while at the same time soundly criticizing those that preoccupy motorists to the point where car accident risks are flatly increased.

Foremost among that latter group of danger-enhancing activities are texting while driving and browsing the Internet on smartphones, actions which LaHood and other safety advocates roundly condemn.

LaHood and the DOT want them to be primary offenses, punishable even in the absence of any other driving infraction. LaHood says that all such time-consuming functions should be legally permissible for a motorist only when his or her vehicle is stopped entirely and in park.

As for other distracting devices, the government has taken a different approach. The DOT announced earlier this week voluntary guidelines that it strongly urges vehicle manufacturers to universally adopt as soon as possible.

The central thrust of the department’s recommendation is this: Any activity — from scanning a GPS system to adjusting a music station — should be able to be done within two seconds or within a series of 1.5 second glances from a driver that together total no more than 12 seconds. Taking eyes off the road for longer than that, say safety regulators, is simply too dangerous and significantly increases the odds for a car crash.

Source: CNN, “‘Two second’ safety guideline for cars of the future,” Mike M. Ahlers, April 24, 2013