Lawmakers in Florida -- one of the most deadly
states when it comes to driving -- are squabbling over whether we need a specific law against texting from behind the wheel.
It seems like a no-brainer when considering, as reported by the Associated Press
, that there are "drivers who text take their eyes off the road for almost 5 seconds," enough time to pilot a several-ton machine the length of a football field at 55 mph without ever noticing.
Still, those opposed argue that such a ban is too intrusive. And, anyway, Florida has reckless-driving laws that can be applied to texting drivers.
While the proposed statewide ban stagnates up in Tallahassee, the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken a new approach to increasing our focus behind the wheel: ask the auto industry to make cars less distracting.
Last week, the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its "first-ever federally proposed guidelines to encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk for in-vehicle electronic devices." The guidelines apply to "communications, entertainment, information gathering and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle," according to a news release.
The organization says car makers should not allow drivers to text message, surf the Web, access social networks, or even manually input an address destination into a GPS device, unless the vehicle is in park. External devices that are not built into the car are not covered under the proposed guidelines.
Within its recommendations, the DOT cites a study that found "text messaging was associated with the highest level of distraction potential. Ten-digit dialing was the second most distracting task; radio tuning had the lowest level."
The new guidelines are only the first phase of a comprehensive plan the DOT plans to unveil aimed at distracted driving. Future recommendations could relate to smartphones, iPods, and similar gadgets we travel with. As Wired's Chuck Squatriglia
Looking further ahead, the NHTSA is drafting "Phase II" proposed guidelines that could apply to anything you might bring into the car, such as a navi system, smartphone or tablet. A third phase of regulations could apply to voice-activated control of gadgets to further minimize distractions.
The DOT also says in the report
that it will consider "drafting and publishing sample text-messaging laws for consideration and possible use by the states."
For Florida's sake, maybe they should provide some sample laws for talking on cell phones while driving too.
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