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Time to hang up and drive?

By Tara Baukus Mello ·
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Posted: 10 am ET

Don't want to hang up and drive your car? The feds are pushing automakers to make sure you do. Numerous studies have shown that drivers are very worried about other drivers causing a car accident because they are distracted by their phone or the array of "infotainment" gadgets in their cars, but they continue to use these devices themselves, even though it poses a serious risk to their safety and could significantly raise their car insurance rates in the event of a crash.

Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has proposed a set of guidelines for automakers to limit the distraction risk for electronic devices in cars.

The guidelines, which are aimed at passenger autos, are the first of a series of edicts from NHTSA that will address driver distraction. The recommendations include making electronic infotainment devices such as smartphones and GPS systems easier and less time-consuming to operate as well as completely disabling any visual-manual versions of: text messaging, Internet browsing, social media browsing, 10-digit phone dialing and entry of an address into the navigation system, among others, unless the device is intended for passenger use only or unless the car is in park.

NHTSA may also issue a set of recommendations that address voice-activated versions of these systems and other in-car gadgets.

To stave off those who bring cell phones, tablets, portable navigation systems and other electronic devices into their cars, NHTSA is also considering future guidelines that recommend limiting the use of these items in the car.

Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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