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How Federal Distracted-Driving Guidelines Will Shape Your Next Phone

• Damon Lavrinc via

Uncle Sam wants automakers to make it impossible for you to text your wife, check Facebook and watch a video while you’re driving — suggestions that could have just as much impact on mobile phone manufacturers as automakers.

The guidelines – and they’re just that, suggestions, not requirements – are laid out in a 281-page report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (.PDF) and the Department of Transportation, which under the direction of outgoing transportation secretary Ray LaHood have made distracted driving a pet cause.

“Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic that has devastating consequences on our nation’s roadways,” LaHood said in a statement. “These guidelines recognize that today’s drivers appreciate technology, while providing automakers with a way to balance the innovation consumers want with the safety we all need. Combined with good laws, good enforcement and good education, these guidelines can save lives.”

Distracted driving accounted for 10 percent of all traffic deaths in 2011, when 3,331 people were killed. That’s a slight increase from 2010, when 3,092 people died. But there’s some question about exactly what percentage of those fatalities and the overall crashes were caused by either in-car infotainment systems or mobile electronics.

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