DOT asks automakers to limit driving distractions - FOX 35 News Orlando

DOT asks automakers to limit driving distractions

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Power locks and air conditioning used to be the finest upgrades you'd find in a car. Now, many models boast GPS navigation, satellite radios -- even the Internet, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is calling for new guidelines, asking automakers to prevent the perks from becoming distractions.

LaHood's suggestions are based on research that suggests visual-manual tasks make it three times more likely for a driver to have a car accident. One of the recommendations LaHood proposed is to disable texting, web browsing and video unless the vehicle is stopped and in park.

Meanwhile, Laurie Hevier is still grieving a crash that took place years ago.

"Eight point seven five seconds changed my life," said Hevier.

Hevier has spent the past four years mourning because -- In less than nine seconds, in April 2009, her life took a traumatic turn. A distracted driver, whom she says was speeding and swerving, drove the same road her mother, Julie Davis, and a friend were walking along.

"There was no attempt to brake. There were no skid marks," Hevier recalled. "She hit my mom at full speed."

Stories like Hevier's are what prompt U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to push auto manufacturers to limit distracted driving.

LaHood emphasized that electronic task-time in the car should not take any longer than 2 seconds at a time. This way, drivers can keep their eyes on the road.

"I think it's a great idea," said Kathy Reid, a Minnesota driver who would like to see the changes. "It just seems crazy that we have to pass a legislation to get people to not watch a video while driving,"

Others, admittedly guilty of distracted driving, say the measures may be what is needed to keep motorists focused on the road.

Zachary Sanford said, "Even if you're at a stop light and you're texting, you're not paying attention to the road. I do it, I shouldn't. I know it's a bad thing."

The guidelines may be difficult to enforce, maybe even implement. For now, LaHood's recommendations are voluntary.

To advocates of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, like Hevier, LaHood's proposed guidelines are a step in the right direction.

"I hope the vehicle manufacturers really take this into account. The items they put in their car to have as convenience or entertainment are not worth a life," Hevier said.

Nor are they worth the heartache Hevier says never goes away.

"It's the life you have planned that you will never have. My daughter will never get to know her grandmother. She was two when she was killed," Hevier told FOX 9 News. "It doesn't get any easier. I miss her every day."

Hevier will continue to push for changes to the legal penalty for distracted driving, and hopes manufacturers adopt LaHood's guidelines, which are part of his comprehensive plan entitled "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving."

To view the research and guidelines announced today visit:
http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/distracted_driving/pdf/811629.pdf

To view Laurie Hevier's blog, click here:
http://lauriehevier.typepad.com/blog/2013/04/imagine.html

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