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Two seconds to safety: Guideline to prevent car crashes

One. Two. In just two seconds, the odds of being in a car accident in Trenton or anywhere else rise dramatically when a driver has their eyes off of the road.

With those two seconds in mind, the federal government recently asked car makers to equip vehicles with devices that require no more than a glance to operate, rather than the long looks required of many devices and instruments of the present and past.

Under new voluntary guidelines, the feds are asking car manufacturers to make their on-board electronis easier to use; so easy that drivers can safely use them without taking their eyes off of traffic or their hands off of the steering wheel for more than two seconds.

Time-intensive activities such as sending or receiving text messages, or looking at the internet, should take place only when a driver has stopped their vehicle and parked, the federal government's Department of Transportation said.

Even at low speeds, those kinds of activities make drivers dangerous to others -- and to themselves.

The voluntary guidelines will balance the desire consumers have for innovative technology in their cars "with the safety we all need," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Distracted driving contributed to more than 380,000 injuries and 3,000 fatalities in car accidents in 2011, LaHood said.

The guidelines give automakers a framework for new technology to be installed in coming models. The technologies are considered secondary to the vehicle's main function: safe transportation.

The technologies include communications gear such as phones and navigation equipment such as GPS, as well as entertainment gadgets including music systems and movie-watching technology.

It should be noted that the guidelines don't apply to handheld cellphones. Those are the responsibility of the driver. The Department of Transportation has long argued that cellphones should never be used while a person is driving.

The National Highway Safety Administration said a new study shows that the visual and manual tasks associated with using a handheld phone while driving show that those activities triple the danger of getting into a car accident.

Source: CNN, "'Two second' safety guideline for cars of the future," Mike M. Ahlers, April 24, 2013

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