The US Department of Traffic (DOT) released several guidelines which were meant to minimize the risk of in-vehicle visual-manual distractions. These included within their purview such supposedly helpful electronic tools such as communication, navigation and entertainment devices.
The Transportation Secretary passed out the guideline list today. The devices present in vehicles were the greatest risk to driving safety. They distracted drivers from their real purpose which was to steer the vehicles in the right direction and avoid head-on collisions or minor accidents. He spoke about how it had reached epidemic proportions and had devastating effects on America’s roads.
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While the guidelines in no way listed the demerits of the vehicular digital devices that had multiplied in recent years, they did stress safety and precaution as watchwords in the fight against tragic accidents. It was not the technology which was to blame but the users of technology who bore the brunt of the burden. The saving of lives mattered since life was not a meaningless thing to be thrown on the road. The creative complexity of the in-vehicle stuff must be balanced by attentiveness to the traffic rules and regulations. This was for the public’s own good.
The guiding principles were given by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). They especially laid down security policies for such devices which had the drivers either taking their hands off the steering wheel or not looking ahead through the windscreen. The NHTSA site stated that after much scientific experimentation and calculation the time span set for looking away from the front was set to a minimum of 2 seconds and a maximum of 12 seconds. There was hard-earned experience behind these recommendations.
Also discussed in detail was the proviso that stopping the car or dealing with the digital stuff while it was parked somewhere were better options than the alternative. These included text messaging and Net browsing. Video-conferencing and Youtube scanning were included in the list of activities that had to be curtailed till the car was in a safe mode. The studies showed that manual devices caused three times more crash incidents. By limiting proper focus, distracted-driving causes loss of innocent lives every year. This problem had to be tackled. Even the mere acts of getting the phone, gaining access to the number and punching in the required digits all were sources of mass distraction. They were an accident waiting to happen.
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One surprising emergent fact was that the study didn’t find a direct correlation between talking on the mobile phone and accident-proneness. However, the rest of the actions related to mobile device usage sharply increased its riskiness. The usage of in-vehicle devices has been a booming business as high technology has acquired a status of its own. But the subsequent loss of focus due to multitasking has not been a welcome side effect of this otherwise good change.