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NHTSA distracted driving guidelines recommend limits on operating in-car electronics

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued new guidelines today designed to limit driver distractions caused by in-car electronics.

Gallery Photo: Cadillac Cue hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: Cadillac Cue hands-on pictures

Though cellphone use certainly remains a focal point in the ongoing campaign against distracted driving, cars themselves are becoming increasingly kitted out with high-function computers with each passing model ear — and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has finally taken notice with some comprehensive guidelines for how they should be limited. When the car is moving, the NHTSA suggests that communication functions and long-form navigation input that requires the driver's eyes be prohibited — in other words, no texting, social networks, numeric dialing, or entry of addresses by hand (systems essential to operation of the car and basic controls like heating and air conditioning aren't covered). The goal, the agency says, is to design cars where the eyes don't need to be off the road for more than two seconds at a time and never require more than one hand to be off the steering wheel. It all seems very prudent, though they're emphasizing that these are strictly guidelines, not laws; of course, that's not to say it couldn't become law in the future.

Today's recommendations constitute Phase I of three phases in total that the NHTSA is looking into; Phase II would cover electronics that aren't built into the car (think phones, tablets, and so on) while Phase III would look at voice-activated systems. So far, auto manufacturers have really focused on voice control — systems like Ford's Sync, for instance — as a way to keep eyes on the road while still allowing the driver to text message, tweet, browse through music, and post status updates. Eventually, though, the feds may be looking to keep drivers focused on precisely one thing, both mentally and physically: driving.