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NHTSA Tries to Curb Driver Distraction

New automaker guidelines take aim at infotainment.

By Clifford Atiyeh Feb 17, 2012 9:18AM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today published a draft of voluntary guidelines that would limit distracting technology in new cars.


It’s the first time the agency has ever proposed such guidelines, and follows closely in the wake of state laws banning texting and the use of handheld phones in the car.


"The guidelines we're proposing would offer real-world guidance to automakers to help them develop electronic devices that provide features consumers want, without disrupting a driver's attention or sacrificing safety,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a press release.


NHTSA says this is the first of three guidelines it plans to release, with later versions intended for aftermarket devices. We pored through the document’s 177 pages to find but a handful of ideas, which NHTSA says would be in effect any time the vehicle is running and out of park or neutral:

  • No keyboard typing.
  • Only six buttons per task should be pushed.
  • A driver’s eye should not glance off the road for more than two seconds per button.
  • No television, photos, videos or video calls.
  • Displayed messages should be 30 characters or less.
  • Infotainment screens should be angled at a maximum of 28 degrees from the driver’s eye.

Active safety systems are not subject to these proposals, and neither are off-screen controls such as for air conditioning, radio, gauges or real buttons. That means Audi can continue to have knobs that control four functions at the same time, Ford can make touch-sensitive dashboards with zero feel, and Porsche can cram 45 buttons and rocker switches without sweating.


All in agreement? Good.

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