DETROIT (AP) — The government is asking automakers to put stronger limits on drivers’ interaction with in-car touch screens in an effort to curb distracted driving.
U.S. traffic safety regulators unveiled guidelines last week that would restrict the amount of time it takes to perform both simple and complex functions on a car’s entertainment and navigation systems.
Regulators also want to ban manual text entry and display of websites, social media, books and other text distractions while the car is moving.
“Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible. It can have devastating consequences,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who announced the guidelines along with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland.
LaHood and Strickland said the NHTSA has determined that over 3,000 people were killed in crashes that involved distracted driving in 2011 and more than 387,000 were hurt.
The guidelines are voluntary for automakers and will be phased in over three years.
Strickland said NHTSA has had success with voluntary guidelines and would consider giving automakers incentives to comply.
But Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a frequent NHTSA and auto industry critic, said the guidelines will do little to halt distracted driving.
“We’ve tried voluntary. Voluntary doesn’t work,” he said.
NHTSA based the new guidelines on a study it conducted on distracted driving. The results showed that tasks requiring drivers to look at touch screens or hand-held devices increase the risk of getting into a crash by three times. Texting, web browsing and dialing a phone were the tasks that kept drivers’ eyes off the road the longest.
However, the study did not find an increased risk of a crash from just talking on a cellphone.
The new guidelines limit simple tasks to two seconds. They also restrict the time allowed for complex tasks to 12 seconds, but do not limit the number of times a driver can touch a screen. The decision on whether a screen would freeze or shut down after 12 seconds would be left to automakers based on their own research, NHTSA said.