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Dashboard Danger: Feds May Create Guidelines on In-Car Devices

Carmakers have decades of experience in tempting people with features they don't really need. Today, however, with electronic dashboard options multiplying, it isn't merely a matter of paying too much. Given the risk of distracted driving, having too much technology puts everyone on the road at risk of serious or even fatal injuries.

This is why federal safety regulators are considering the creation of guidelines to place restrictions on the use of technological devices that are built right into the vehicle. To prevent car accidents and truck accidents, the dashboard should a place to focus on driving, not infotainment.

To be sure, distracted driving can occur with older technology as well. Fiddling with the radio or looking down momentarily to change a CD can take a driver's eyes off the road long enough to cause an accident.

But the sheer ubiquity of devices available now has multiplied the dangers of distraction. The devices include a host of mobile devices for texting, Web-browsing, cellphone calls, and so on. There are also increasingly many new devices built right into the vehicles themselves, such as voice-activated systems for navigation controls.

Just because such devices are hands-free does not make them safe. Research has repeatedly shown that even if a driver has his or her hands free, cognitive overload can occur when there are too many technological stimuli to keep track of.

When the mind gets overwhelmed by too much data, it becomes no longer possible to focus properly on driving safely.

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, has been meeting with executives from the car industry to discuss what can be done to design cars more safety in the Internet age.

Source: "In-Car Technology Use to Get More U.S. Guidelines: LaHood," Businessweek, Angela Greiling Keane, 6-7-12

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