Traffic fatalities caused by distracted drivers are increasing every year, and cell phone use is largely to blame. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving overall was a factor in almost 3,200 traffic fatalities in 2014 and nearly 3,500 in 2015 in the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rico. Of those deaths, cell phones were the distracting element in 476 deaths in 2015, up from 406 in 2014.
In the words of Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation: “Distraction is still a problem. Too many people are dying and being injured on our roadways.”
NHTSA Releases Guidelines to Address Driver Distraction
On November 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released proposed guidelines to address driver distraction caused by mobile and other electronic devices used in vehicles. It was its second phase of voluntary guidelines to address driver distraction on U.S. roads. The first phase focused on devices or systems built into the vehicle at the time of manufacture.
New Guidelines Encourage Car Safe Mobile Device Innovation
NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines are designed to encourage portable and aftermarket electronic device developers such as Apple and Samsung to design products that, when used while driving, reduce the potential for driver distraction. The agency’s guidelines encourage manufacturers of mobile devices to implement features such as pairing, which links a portable device to a vehicle’s infotainment system. Both paring and Driver Mode limit the time a driver’s eyes are off the road, and also keep the full functionality of the device when used at other times. Driver Mode, like Airplane Mode already on a smartphone, locks several apps such as message, Facebook, Twitter, LINE, WhatsApp and Instagram that need to transmit or receive a signal, so they can’t be used.
NTSA Wants Mobile Device Technology Activated by Vehicle Motion
NHTSA wants to see technology that automatically reduces a phone’s functionality and switches the display to a simple interface when it detects the car is in motion, which could block video and prohibit use of a keypad. Some smartphones already have this feature. Sony Ericsson models have “In Car” profile or “Driving” profile, which rejects all call-ins and sends a quick message in English to the phone number calling in to call back later because the phone’s owner is driving.
The agency is seeking public comments on its proposed guidelines. You can submit written comments at Regulations.gov.