Strategies for Reducing Driver Distraction from In-Vehicle Telematics Devices: A Discussion Document

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June 2003
TP 14133 E
Prepared by:
Standards Research and Development Branch
Motor Vehicle Safety Directorate
Transport Canada

How to get the full report


Executive Summary

"In-Vehicle Telematics" refers to devices incorporating wireless communications technologies in order to provide information services, vehicle automation and other functions. Transport Canada is concerned that in-vehicle telematics devices are a threat to road safety because they increase driver distraction and cause an increase in distraction-related crashes. This concern is based on a substantial and mounting body of evidence indicating that using these devices impairs driving performance.

While cellular phones are currently the most common type of telematics devices used in vehicles, other technologies and applications, for example, navigation, adaptive cruise control and Internet access, are increasingly entering the market. While provincial and territorial governments have an important role in this area, many of these devices will be offered as original vehicle equipment and thus be subject to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The issue warrants urgent and close scrutiny as many such devices are in intensive development. One objective of the proposed consultation is to obtain detailed information on what industry is currently doing or planning. A second objective is to understand what federal interventions are feasible, appropriate and expected by Canadians.

A number of complementary efforts are envisioned, including the publication of this discussion document defining the problem and outlining possible regulatory and non-regulatory responses. The status quo may not be viable since there appears to be insufficient effort on the part of the industry to manage the risk. Non-regulatory approaches could include public awareness initiatives and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between government jurisdictions and industry. An MOU might require manufacturers to implement a driver-system integration design process to minimize the potential adverse safety consequences of in-vehicle telematics. Alternatively, the Department could publish an advisory outlining the driver-system integration design process that manufacturers should adopt.

Regulatory initiatives could include requiring the disabling of access to entertainment systems (e.g., DVDs), telecommunication or other telematics devices in moving vehicles, having safer limits on visual distraction, and prohibiting open-architectures that would allow the use of untested after-market ‘plug-and-play' type applications.

The information obtained from the responses to this discussion document and follow-up consultations will help the Department to understand the need for, and characteristics of, potential government intervention and initiate appropriate interventions.


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Road Safety and Motor Vehicle
Regulation Directorate
Transport Canada
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