West Virginia Traffic Accidents & The Risks of Summer Distractions

May 2013

According to a new NHTSA study, when a driver is engaged in visual-manual activities, such as using a cell phone or inserting a CD into the CD player, the chance of being involved in an accident increases threefold. Visual-manual activities put the driver of a vehicle at greatest risk, and include anything that takes the driver’s hand off the wheel or eyes off the road.

Our West Virginia car accident attorneys know that text messaging and using a handheld cell phone is illegal in West Virginia. These laws are important in protecting drivers since even a few seconds of distraction can lead to disastrous consequences. Now, however, there are some new guidelines that are intended to improve safety by addressing in-car distractions that aren’t illegal but that still increase the car accident risk.

US DOT Guidelines to Reduce Distracted Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of distracted driving accidents. These guidelines are directed toward car manufacturers and aim to limit distractions by making changes in the automobile’s electronic devices, such as the navigation system, entertainment and communications systems.

The guidelines are meant to reduce the amount of time a driver takes his eyes off the road to two seconds or less. The new guidelines address the design of various in-car systems as well as recommending that certain operations are disabled while driving.

NHTSA issued the guidelines after studying how people use passenger cars, so the new guidelines will apply only to light vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less.  The design guidelines were based on the principles that:

  • The driver’s eyes should be focused on the road ahead.
  • The driver should be able to perform secondary tasks in the car without having to take both hands off of the steering wheel.
  • The driver should control interactions or tasks, not the system or device.
  • All displays should be easy for drivers to see.

NHTSA also uses a two-test system to determine the impact of performing a task while driving. NHTSA considers the time that it takes to complete the task as well as the level of interference the task creates with the driver’s ability to pay attention to the road.

After evaluating these criteria, NHTSA either recommends design changes to cut the task time down and make the task easier or recommends that certain in-vehicle devices are designed so the driver is not able to do the task while driving. For example, the guidelines recommend that manual text messaging, video-based entertainment and displays of text messages and social media content are disabled while the car is operational and while the driver is driving.

The new NHTSA guidelines are voluntary so NHTSA will not be monitoring car manufacturers to ensure that they comply with the new recommendations. However, if carmakers do comply, then the simple changes made to in-car controls to follow the guidelines could save lives by reducing the number of distracted driving accidents significantly.

If you’ve been in an auto accident in Ohio, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, contact the personal injury attorneys at Recht Law Office. Call us today at 1-800-HURTLINE.

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