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The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has called upon auto-makers to design into new cars that incorporate in-dash mobile device integration a lock-out on certain functions while driving.

The requested prohibition involves only those in-dash devices that include GPS programming, hands-free calling, texting and social networking communications. The ban does not include devices not integrated into the electronics of the vehicle, such as hand-held mobile phones or independent GPS units.

Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and can have devastating consequences. “Every single time a driver takes his or her focus off the road, the driver puts his or her life and the lives of others at risk.”

Ray LaHood, US Transportation Secretary, issued non-binding guidelines today that also includes 10-digit dialling and Internet browsing while driving.

Whilst these guidelines pertain only to the integrated devices, the department stated that it is considering future standards on hand-held devices as well and voice-interactive systems.

Barbara Harsha, the Governors Highway Safety Associate executive director, responded to the non-binding directive:

“DOT is on the right path. We particularly like the guideline for disabling devices that text and surf the Internet, etc.”

David Strickland, the administrator of the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), stated:

“Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and can have devastating consequences. “Every single time a driver takes his or her focus off the road, the driver puts his or her life and the lives of others at risk.”

According to NHTSA, 3,092 or 9.4 percent of all road fatalities in the United States in 2010 were caused by distracted drivers.

According to one organisation, approximately 26 percent of vehicles current integrate a mobile device of one sort or another into the electronic structure of a vehicle, whether it’s an in-dash calling unit, GPS or other device.

The UK firm, Bromsgrove, estimates that by the year 2026, all vehicles manufactured will contain the integrated devices.

The US automotive industry has its own association, called the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, with its own guidelines. Whilst some standards match those of the recent US DOT informal guidelines, some do not.

The automakers’ guidelines call for a maximum of two seconds to perform a task while eyes are not on the road way. The two-second rule requires minimum complexity of performing a task, such as finding and pressing an options button or a hands-free dialling icon.

The US DOT guidelines are not official mandate, and the DOT is taking comments before making the request official.

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