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In an effort to reduce motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving, the federal government has called upon automakers to limit technologies that permit texting and cellphone use while a motor vehicle is being operated.

Last December, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman recommended that hands-free and other communications devices be banned in cars. Guidelines announced by Transportation Secretary LaHood on February 16, 2012, would establish new safety criteria for hands-free calling, navigation and entertainment systems now common in new cars and trucks. The Transportation Secretary’s proposal would disable in-vehicle electronic text messaging, internet browsing and social media access while a vehicle is moving. The proposed guidelines would include standard and optional systems not relevant to safe driving and those that cause “undue” distraction.

According to the latest available figures, 3,092 deaths from distracted driving were recorded in 2010. Since many drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents are understandably unwilling to admit that they were texting or engaging in other distracted driving behavior or because the distracted driver died in the accident, experts believe that the actual number of deaths may be considerably higher. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated “Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly habit on America’s roadways – that’s why I’ve made it a priority to encourage people to stay focused behind the wheel.”

The proposed guidelines are subject to a 60 day public comment period. Hearings will be conducted by the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration in March in Los Angeles, Washington, and Chicago.

Source: MSNBC, “Feds to crack down on texting while driving,” John Crawley, Feb. 16, 2012.