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Drivers' in-vehicle screen use might get sparser

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 8:33 p.m.

DETROIT — The federal government is asking automakers to put stronger limits on drivers' interaction with in-vehicle touch screens to curb distracted driving.

Traffic safety regulators announced guidelines on Tuesday that would restrict the amount of time that it takes to perform simple and complex functions on a vehicle's entertainment and navigation systems.

Regulators also want to ban manual text entry and display of websites, social media, books and other text distractions while the vehicle is moving.

“Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible. It can have devastating consequences,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who cited the guidelines along with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland.

LaHood and Strickland told reporters on a conference call that NHTSA has determined that more than 3,000 people in 2011 were killed in crashes that involved distracted driving and that more than 387,000 were injured.

The guidelines are voluntary for automakers and will be phased in over three years.

Strickland said NHTSA has had success with voluntary guidelines and would consider giving automakers incentives to comply.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety and a frequent NHTSA and auto industry critic, said the guidelines will do little to halt distracted driving.

“We've tried voluntary. Voluntary doesn't work,” he said.

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