Federal Guidelines May Require Car Makers to Limit Distracted Driving

Like anywhere in the United States, distracted driving is a safety issue in Worcester County and plays a major role in car accidents and near-accidents in Worcester, Fitchburg and Boston. Even Massachusetts and many other states have laws against distracted driving behaviors, drivers continue to text and use handheld cellphones while behind the wheel. Therefore, the federal government may be getting into the mix to further encourage drivers to put their cellphones down when driving.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is no stranger to distracted driving. The issue has been on his radar since he was appointed to the office, and throughout his tenure LaHood has made distracted driving one of his signature issues. In one of his latest efforts to prevent car accidents caused by distracted driving, LaHood is advocating federal manufacturing guidelines to disable electronic devices while a vehicle is in motion.

Earlier this year, the Transportation Department announced federal guidelines that recommend car manufacturers develop in-car electronic devices that prohibit drivers from texting, browsing the internet, using social media, entering information into navigation systems, or dialing phone numbers while a vehicle is in motion. The federal guidelines would not restrict the passenger use of electronic devices although not even a passenger could enter new information into a factory-installed GPS system unless the vehicle is stopped.

The federal government is focusing on car makers because it has the legal authority to issue safety guidelines or requirements to auto manufacturers. In contrast, only individual states can pass laws prohibiting drivers from using electronic devices not installed by manufacturers, such as cellphones.

The federal guidelines may also reinforce what some car manufacturers are already doing. Many new vehicles already come with navigation systems that require the vehicle occupants to enter destination information when the car is stopped. According to one industry expert interviewed in The Washington Post, the car industry is keen to add distracted driving safety features to built-in electronic devices, and car makers are developing a standard by which any task that takes longer than two seconds to perform would be blocked by the system while a vehicle is in motion.

Therefore, the federal government's efforts to implement distracted driving safety technology may meet resistance not from car manufacturers, but from drivers themselves. Every day, drivers in Massachusetts continue to use their cellphones while behind the wheel despite the danger to others on the road. If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident in Massachusetts, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to review your legal options.