Visual-manual NHTSA driver distraction guidelines for in-vehicle electronic devices

  • Published: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2012
  • Authors: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Date Added: 08 Feb 2013
  • Last Update: 31 Oct 2016
  • Format: pdf


To promote safety by discouraging the introduction of excessively distracting devices in vehicles.


Part of the NHTSA Driver Distraction programme; many items of research were consulted in building these guidelines. Note that the validity has been questioned for some of the consulted research – see Comments below.

Key Findings:

  • List of tasks which interfere inherently with driver control and which should not be allowed whilst driving.

  • For other secondary non-driving tasks tests are derived to assess suitability: completion of task is possible with glances of not more than 2 seconds and cumulative time of not more than 12 seconds; completion of task is possible in a series of 1.5 second glances and cumulative time of not more than 9 seconds.

  • Device functions should require no more than one of driver’s hands to operate.


Distraction, in-car devices, guidelines


Guidelines from North America which could prove influential in the safe use of future vehicle telematics devices. However, note that the guidelines draw on findings which claim that cognitive distraction plays a much smaller role than visual distraction. This does not accord with other research on cognitive distraction and it is hypothesised that these findings may be the result of methodological error. Hence the guidelines may draw on flawed research.