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According to NHTSA, there were 3,092 deaths related to distracted driving in 2010

Automakers and the U.S. government are going head-to-head over the installation of Internet-enabled devices in automobiles despite safety-related concerns.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has recently expressed concerns over distracted driving, where drivers are using internet-enabled devices (both in-vehicle and not) in their cars instead of focusing on the road.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is a major advocate of the anti-distracted driving campaign, and even proposed the first-ever distracted driving guidelines in February 2012, which challenged automakers to cut the number of in-vehicle entertainment and information electronics. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued these guidelines, which offer criteria for the kinds of electronic devices and number of devices that can be used within a vehicle.

Despite the government's concerns over safety, automakers are not pulling the plug on in-vehicle electronics. In fact, it looks as if automakers are increasing the number of Internet-enabled in-vehicle devices in order to attract new buyers.

For instance, Volkswagen AG's Audi has said that it is the first to provide in-vehicle access to Google Earth and Wi-Fi. Others, including Ford, General Motors and Nissan have advertised vehicles that have easier access to Google, Facebook and Twitter. Such vehicles are already hitting showrooms.

Automakers are able to do this despite the guidelines that LaHood proposed because the guidelines have not recommended exact limits on in-vehicle devices. LaHood isn't looking to cut technology out of vehicles completely, as he demonstrated in December 2011 when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) tried to ban hands-free calls while driving. LaHood said he wouldn't back it, since the driver can still keep their hands on the wheel.

However, the fact that automakers are continuously adding more distracting technology is what worries LaHood and other transportation officials.

"When you're behind the wheel of a car, anything that takes your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel can be deadly," said LaHood in a statement. "We don't have to choose between safety and technology, but while these devices may offer consumers new tools and features, automakers have a responsibility to ensure they don't divert a driver's attention away from the road."

Automakers say they're working on devices that only require a small amount of driver's attention, like voice recognition. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers even said that drivers are going to use technology in their vehicles whether its in-vehicle or gadgets that weren't meant for autos like smartphones and tablets, so creating safer in-vehicle devices is a better alternative.

Comments are due on LaHood's distracted driving guidelines today. According to NHTSA, there were 3,092 deaths related to distracted driving in 2010.

"If the auto manufacturers focused as much on safety as they do on marketing their products, we would save a lot of lives," said Deborah Hersman, NTSB chairman.

Source: The Detroit News

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Distracted drivers want to be distracted
By Schrag4 on 5/21/2012 11:04:43 AM , Rating: 2
You cannot legislate stupid out of people. You have many people who give their primary attention to keeping thier cars intact, no matter what distractions there may be, and you also have a few (but still too many) who don't take driving seriously. The latter will find ways to distract themselves no matter what you try to ban. Distracted driving is nothing new. Before cell phones, people would do all kinds of stupid things while they drive. IMO, the answer isn't to ban dangerous behavior altogether, it's to punish it severly when it results in an accident.

I once saw someone driving on the interstate at 75 MPH in moderate traffic who was balancing their checkbook. I'm sure many of you have seen much worse. Does that mean we need a ban on balancing checkbooks to help guide our behavior? IMO, no, an emphasis on personal responsibility is a better approach. The nanny-state approach implies that if there's not a law banning something then people cannot be held responsible for behaving irresponsibly.

RE: Distracted drivers want to be distracted
By chmilz on 5/21/2012 12:49:41 PM , Rating: 2
I would consider myself a good, attentive driver. I don't use my phone. I don't fiddle with things. I pull over to accomplish any task that will disengage me from driving.

However, I recently got a new vehicle with a touch screen infotainment center and no matter how hard I try, I find myself being distracted. It's a well designed system, everything is only a couple touches away, but no matter how simple it is it's impossible to turn on the heated seats without looking at it. There's tons of little things I can't do without looking at the screen, that I could previously do by hitting a tactile button without looking.

Maybe voice commands will change this, but I'd rather just have buttons.

By JediJeb on 5/21/2012 3:38:51 PM , Rating: 2
Buttons you know by the feel to me are the best, since once you know how they feel you can do most any adjustment without ever taking your eyes off the road. Just another thing I hate to think about if I ever get another vehicle, after 16 years driving the same one, I know exactly where everything is without ever having to look.

By Schrag4 on 5/22/2012 1:19:39 AM , Rating: 2
You'll learn how to quickly push those buttons without taking your eyes off the road for longer than a split second. I'm not worried about you. I had the same problem with I recently got a new (to me) vehicle. The cruise control buttons were on the opposite side of the steering wheel and the radio worked differently. Took me a week or two to get used to the differences - old habits die hard. BUT, I made a decision that anything that I couldn't figure out in a short glance would just have to wait until I'm stopped. It's a decision we all have to make. Some people will gamble with their lives (and others) to get their favorite tunes going or reply to a text, I choose not to.

It's OK to take your eyes off the road for a split second to turn on heated seats or change the radio station or check the clock, the speedometer, to do whatever, really. Just pick the right split second to do it. If you're doing 70 MPH in heavy traffic (following another vehicle closely), probably not the best time. If you can see no cars 10 seconds ahead of you and no place for people/animals/whatever to pop out of, take a whole second to turn on those seats - even two seconds! I'm sure you'll figure it out, and I'm sure you don't need a law to tell you how long you can take your eyes off the road. I'm just as sure somewhere, someone wishes there was such a law, you know, for the children and all :-\

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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