Just before Thanksgiving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines intended to curb driver distraction resulting from the use of cell phones and other portable devices. While the guidelines are voluntarily, they are meant to address a serious problem. NHTSA says 10% of the 35,092 fatal crashes in 2015 involved at least one distracted driver and resulted in 3,477 fatalities. That’s a 9% increase from 2014. Distracted driving was also factor in 16% of the 5.6 million non-fatal crashes in 2014, which is the most recent year for which the agency has data available.
“As millions of Americans take to the roads for Thanksgiving gatherings, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cellphones,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “These common sense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road.”
The guidelines apply to device makers and app developers such as Apple, Google and others, according to a NHTSA spokesman. They recommend companies design their portable devices to be paired with in-car systems and be operated using the vehicle’s user interface. They also recommend disabling certain cell phone functions when paired with a vehicle, such as playing most video, text entry for messaging or internet browsing and displaying social media content.
The guidelines released today are the second phase of recommendations issued by NHTSA to curb distracted driving. The first were issued in 2013. Today’s recommendations come at a time when automakers have begun installing smart phone integration systems such as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto in more new models. The systems display a simplified version of Android and Apple smart phone interfaces on vehicle touch screens and offer limited access to some applications and phone functions such as maps, text message dictation, and phone use.
The guidelines also recommend device makers that do not “lock out” those functions offer a simplified “driver mode” interface that limits functionality even when not paired with a vehicle’s infotainment or navigation interface.
Those who cannot go two seconds without checking some digital device or other will not be pleased by these recommendations. Some people think they have a constitutional right to check their e-mail, take selfies, and access social media anywhere and any time. But if 10% of fatal accidents and 16% of non-fatal accidents involve distracted driving, clearly its time to place some reasonable restrictions on those activities while operating an automobile — at least until self driving cars are ready to remove the the responsibility for safe driving from our all too frail human shoulders.
Source: Automotive News Photo credit: Apple