Drivers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada may soon have to get their directions the old fashioned way – by pulling off the road and asking – as lawmakers consider measures that would severely restrict vehicle navigation systems in cars due to increased driver distraction.
Spawned by concerns raised by Transport Canada that in-dash navigation and information systems slow driver response times and take the driver’s eyes off the road while the systems are operated, officials in Ottawa are looking to regulate or somehow control how these devices work while on the road.
According to an article in the Ottawa Globe and Mail, research showed that three-quarters of the drivers using on-board navigation systems took their eyes off the road for 75 percent of the time they were operating their car’s information systems.
The goal of the potential regulations would be to help control how and when the systems can be used to ensure that they are operated safely. “Currently manufacturers aren’t really doing much to ensure that these devices are safe as far as we know. There is no standard procedure for testing the devices to make sure they aren’t too distracting for the average driver,” Transport Canada’s chief ergonomist Peter Burns told the paper.
Ottawa officials plan to take comments from the public and the auto industry regarding options for improving the safety of vehicle information systems. One of the ideas suggested was to implement systems that could not be used while the vehicle was in gear.
In a similar move, lawmakers in California are considering a ban on the hands-on use of cell phones while driving for motorists in that state. According to a report in the Pasadena Star News, Assembly Bill 45, which passed the state assembly in late May, would require drivers in California to use only hands-free devices to make calls while driving. Currently the bill is being considered by the state’s Senate Transportation Committee.
The California Highway Patrol estimates that 11 percent of all driver-distraction-related traffic accidents that occurred in the first six months of 2002 were the result of cell phone usage. However, applying a hands-off rule may not be enough. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah in 2001 found that driver response times were negatively impacted and “inattention blindness” was equally as likely to occur in any driver using a cell phone, regardless of whether the phone was hands-on or hands-off.
Sources: Ottawa Globe and Mail; Pasadena Star News