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U.S. safety agency asks car manufacturers to simplify dashboards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday asked motor-vehicle manufacturers to voluntarily cut back on the technological distractions more and more being built into dashboards. The NHTSA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood is an outspoken advocate of reducing distracted driving.

Distracting screens and gadgets are becoming more complex and sophisticated, leading to the possibility of more driver distraction from the road. Arguably, the proliferation of veritable home theaters, GPS devices, phones and personal computers on dashboards could cause a rise in auto accidents in Wrightsville Beach and throughout the country.

Part of the NHTSA's recommendation is that carmakers design dashboards that disable distracting technology when a car is gear. Access to certain devices would only be available when a vehicle is completely stopped and in park.

Stakeholders have 60 days from the announcement to make official comments to the agency about the proposal. Reportedly the industry has some of its own similar guidelines already in place.

NHSTA is also contemplating possible national guidelines for the use of hand-held devices while driving. Items of concern include mobile phones, including smartphones; GPS devices; and tablets.

According to the AP, 35 states plus the District of Columbia outlaw texting behind the wheel, and in nine states it is illegal to use mobile phones while driving. Despite these state actions, the NHTSA reports an astonishing figure: texting while driving doubled in 2010.

Source: WETC.com, "Curb the car dashboard technology, government asks," Joan Lowy, Feb. 16, 2012

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