Federal Government Sets Voluntary Limits on Electronic Products That May Distract Drivers

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued guidelines intended to limit the risk of driver distraction from in-vehicle electronic devices that are not directly applicable to driving a car. These voluntary guidelines do not have the effect of law and would apply to original equipment installed in new light-duty vehicles. 

The electronic devices covered include “information, navigation, communications and entertainment” products that require drivers to take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. For example, certain functions, such as inputting an address into a navigation system, text messaging, dialing a phone number or browsing the Internet would be disabled until the vehicle is in park. Operations that require less than two seconds at one time (12 seconds total to perform) and one hand to achieve would be permitted. 

The NHTSA has been researching driver distraction for years. The agency guidelines attempt to build on, but also go beyond, the best practices developed in recent years by the automakers. In the future, the NHTSA intends to issue a second guidance document for aftermarket products. Such devices include smartphones, electronic tablets and pads and other mobile communications devices. The NHTSA could also issue a third set of guidelines covering voice-activated control devices offered by the automakers and aftermarket. 

For additional information, contact Stuart Gosswein at