Just Drive

By Debbie Hersman

texting driverLast week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued voluntary guidelines to auto manufacturers, saying they should limit the time that drivers take their eyes off the road to perform any task to two seconds at a time and twelve seconds total. The guidelines also recommend limiting the ability to text, browse the Web, watch video or view social media unless the car is in park.

At the NTSB, our investigations have long highlighted the danger and deadliness of driver distraction. So I commend NHTSA for bringing additional attention to the issue. Now, it is up to the auto manufacturers to get behind these voluntary guidelines.

After completing an investigation of an Aug. 5, 2010, highway crash in Gray Summit, Mo, where a pickup driver, who had been texting, plowed into the back of a tractor trailer and set off a series of collisions that killed two people, the NTSB issued its strongest recommendation yet to end driver distractions from portable electronic devices (PEDs). The NTSB has called on the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of PEDs (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.

This year, eliminating distraction in transportation is one of the ten issues on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation  safety improvements.

Distraction is complicated and we are still learning what the human brain can and cannot handle. And important research continues to come to light; last week, a new study found that voice-to-text systems offer no real safety advantage over manual texting.

There is one startlingly simple safety solution that cuts through the entire debate: Just drive. No text, no call, no post is worth a human life.

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