Hey, Auto Industry: Eyes Straight Ahead!

Although in-car infotainment systems have been linked to only a small number of auto crashes in the past, all bets are off when the new generation of systems becomes widely deployed. The National Safety Council has expressed deep concern that “the integration of these electronic devices into vehicles may irrevocably drive consumer demand and influence driver behavior, and create a greater risk than that of handheld mobile devices alone.” Meanwhile, NHTSA [U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Administration] has been plowing ahead with development of voluntary, non-binding guidelines for in-car, portable, and voice-activated infotainment systems. In April 2013, NHTSA issued its first set of guidelines, which call on car companies to limit the distraction risks associated with manufacturer-installed systems. Among other things, the guidelines call for disabling specific operations of infotainment systems unless the vehicle is stationary and shifted into park. The guidelines target manual text messaging, Internet browsing, and the display of web pages and social media content. Although voluntary, the guidelines will have teeth.
Jay Winsten, Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Read the Op/Ed published April 28, 2014 in The Huffington Post