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Proposed U.S. rules target technology that distracts drivers

Proposed U.S. rules target technology that distracts drivers

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WASHINGTON • The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to employ technology against technology in its campaign against distracted driving. Cars should be designed to refuse to send texts, tweets or Facebook messages while they are moving, according to draft regulations.

Other tasks, such as pulling up a saved address in a GPS system, would be allowed. But they should be performed in two-second glances away from the road and with fewer than seven button pushes, according to the draft rules.

The proposed DOT regulations are voluntary recommendations for automobile manufacturers. For now they would apply only to systems built into cars by manufacturers, not mobile phones and other gadgets installed by owners, or voice-activated systems. The DOT said guidelines on those devices would be issued soon.

Total crash deaths have declined steadily since 2005, but fatalities caused by distracted driving have risen. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed as a result of distracted driving, and hundreds of thousands more were injured, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But FocusDriven, a group founded by the families of victims of distracted drivers, said the plan could encourage motorists to take more risks.

"What this does is allow people to believe that all of these applications must be safe," said Rob Reynolds, the group's executive director. "The recommendations fail to address the reality of the issue: Using these devices in your car causes crashes."

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