The federal government has asked vehicle manufacturers to put limitations on what drivers can do with electronic devices while driving.
The guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation are not mandatory but a first step in that direction unless automakers voluntarily come up with some blocks on behind-the-wheel usage of text-phone messaging, entering navigation addresses, internet and social media browsing or 10-digit phone dialing.
The dangers of distracted driving are well publicized but typically drivers think they can do these tasks safely – it is just the other drivers who can’t.
While some vehicles already place restrictions on devices, like limiting navigation data while underway, the current trend is to add more and more devices, with many of them voice-activated.
It is clear that anyone driving needs to remain mentally focused on the driving task with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Best guess: It will be years before the issue is clearly defined – either by government mandated requirements or automakers voluntary actions. Even today, automakers have warnings that drivers must indicate they agree with before some navigation functions can be manipulated, whether parked or underway.
Researchers will reap huge contracts to determine just how various devices inhibit driving focus and which are the most dangerous. That type of research – and the results – will go a long way towards seeing what the future cockpit of a car looks like and what can and cannot be done while driving.
AAA Carolinas has long advocated the education of drivers to distracted driving dangers and hopefully, this issue will diminish as a safety factor in the future with education, in-vehicle design and rigorous law enforcement.