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New car manufacturing guidelines take aim at distracted driving

Federal regulators have introduced a new set of voluntary guidelines for automakers, with the aim of minimizing the time drivers spend looking away from the road. The guidelines are hoped to help reduce car accidents caused by distracted driving.

In 2011, distracted driving contributed to approximately 3,000 fatalities and 387,000 injuries nationwide, according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Many such accidents occur when drivers are distracted by cellphones, navigation systems, stereos and other electronic devices inside their vehicles.

LaHood says the government's recommendations strike a balance between safety and innovation, CNN reported. After months of review, the voluntary guidelines were released on April 23, 2013. The recommendations include a request that new vehicles be equipped with on-board devices that drivers can operate with no more than fleeting glances away from the road.

Two-second rule for electronic devices

Specifically, the guidelines recommend that on-board electronic devices require drivers to remove their eyes from the road for no more than two seconds at a time, and for no more than 12 seconds total. The same suggested time limits apply to the amount of time that a driver's hand may be removed from the steering wheel to operate an on-board electronic device. The recommendations also specify that time-consuming functionalities like texting or browsing the internet should be disabled unless a vehicle is parked.

The voluntary guidelines apply to a wide range of devices that are included in many new vehicles but are considered secondary to the task of driving, CNN reported. Examples of devices covered by the guidelines include hands-free cellphones, navigation equipment, DVD players and internet services. Separate guidelines are being developed for portable and after-market electronic devices, as well as for hand-held cellphones, which are discouraged by the DOT.

New Jersey distracted driving laws

In New Jersey, the law prohibits drivers from talking or texting on hand-held cellphones while operating a motor vehicle. A new distracted driving measure was recently approved by the New Jersey Assembly. Known as Nikki's Law, the legislation would require signs to be posted along New Jersey highways to remind passersby that distracted driving is against the law. The bill was named in honor of a New Jersey teen who died in 2012 car crash in which distracted driving is thought to have been a factor.

When distracted driving leads to injuries or fatalities in New Jersey, the law provides that an at-fault driver can be held liable to those who are harmed by his or her negligence. People who have been injured or lost a loved one in a New Jersey traffic accident should speak with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to learn more about the possibility of pursuing compensation for their injuries, lost income, medical expenses and other harm caused by the crash.

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