The federal government recognizes that distracted driving leads to accidents; the problem appears to be defining what constitutes distracted driving, as well as quantifying the danger posed by it.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will publish their own guidelines on the issue later this year, but compliance will be voluntary. An NHTSA study on cognitive distractions isn’t expected to be completed until 2013, and the agency defines distracted driving as an “evolving threat.” In other words, any federal legislation relating to distracted driving is, at best, still years away.Distracted driving can take many forms, but statistically speaking an insect in the car poses the greatest danger of an accident. Cell phone opponents claim that even fully integrated hands-free systems such as Ford’s SYNC take away from a driver’s awareness, and some research studies seem to confirm this hypothesis. Other groups insist that use of a hands-free cell phone poses no additional distraction to the driver, and General Motors even cites OnStar data to back up this claim.
To date, 30 states have legislation on the books to address the use of handheld cell phones. Even in states that require the use of a hands-free device, the laws are rarely enforced unless a driver is involved in a collision.
This much is clear: distracted driving will remain an issue, at least until the government compiles what it defines as sufficient data to examine the problem.