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New NHTSA Guidelines Impact Automakers And In-Car Electronic Displays

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released some recommendations late last week for what it believes automakers should do to increase safety for drivers and other motorists. Federal regulators suggested that the auto industry do more to ensure that drivers keep their eyes and attention focused on the road in front of them and not on in-car electronic displays that have grown increasingly complex in recent years.

To accomplish this goal, the NHTSA recommends that carmakers disable several important operations unless a vehicle is stopped and in park. They recommend that all manual text entry for the purpose of text messaging or internet browsing be disabled. Also, all video-based entertainment, messaging or video conferencing should be disabled unless the car is stopped. Finally, the NHTSA recommends that all text messages, web pages and social media content be kept away from drivers while the vehicle is in motion.

Though the recommendations by the NHTSA are voluntary, they cut against the increasingly connected vehicles being manufactured today. Car companies are producing more and more internet ready cars, some with built in apps and the ability to surf the internet.

Car companies have complained that the new restrictions are unfairly punitive to carmakers and will do little to increase safety. They say that the rules will restrict technological development inside cars, which will only force consumers to use similar features on their cellphones, rather than inside the vehicle. However, the NHTSA says that now that it has issued guidelines for in-car equipment it will turn its attention to setting guidelines for portable devices.

A recent study discussed by the NHTSA and that was conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that the act of speaking on a cell phone did not increase the risk of a crash or a near-crash, but that text messaging doubled the risk. And other tasks involved in placing or receiving a phone call, such as finding a ringing phone, looking up a contact or dialing a number, tripled the risk of a crash or a near collision. Because of these other tasks, researchers found that using a handheld phone increased the risk of a crash by about 73 percent.

According to NHTSA data, 3,331 people died in distracted-driving accidents in 2011, up from 3,092 in 2010. Another 387,000 people were injured in 2011 in crashes involving a distracted driver. Given these enormous figures, the NHTSA is trying to act quickly to reduce the opportunities for distraction when a driver is behind the wheel.

Given the endless distractions available to us all, it’s easy to forget just how dangerous driving is, especially for young and inexperienced drivers. Being alert, avoiding unnecessary distractions and remembering the rules of the road will help keep everyone safer on Virginia highways.

If you lost a family member in a Virginia car, motorcycle or truck wreck caused by a distracted driver, it’s critical that you reach out to an experienced attorney who has successfully handled similar cases. The attorneys at my firm recently recovered nearly $70,000 for one of our clients, a student at a university in Norfolk, VA, who suffered serious injuries after being hit by a distracted driver.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Virginia car accident you likely don’t know where to turn for advice. The following answers to common frequently asked questions can help provide some basic information about why it’s important to obtain legal counsel after suffering an unexpected car accident.

Here's a video where one of our attorneys, Emily Mapp Brannon, answers some frequently asked questions about Virginia car accidents:


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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