New Federal Guidelines Try to Get Drivers to Put Down Their Phones

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People who like to check their phones while driving may no longer be able to, if a new regulation is adopted by car manufacturers and mobile device makers. In a bid to get drivers to keep their eye’s on the road more, the top U.S. highway safety agency recommended that the most distracting cell phone functions be disabled when a person is operating a motor-vehicle.

The new guidelines were issued as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce distracted driving that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began developing in 2010. Since then, distracted driving has become an even bigger problem, with traffic fatalities on the rise this year for the first time in five decades.

Distracted Driving Is Definitely Deadly

In 2015, there were 35,092 traffic fatalities in the U.S., 10 percent — or 3,477 — of which, involved a distracted driver, according to NHTSA’s new distracted driving guidelines. That number represents an 8.8 percent increase from 2014, when 3,197 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers, NHTSA says.

On top of the deaths, hundreds of thousands of people are injured each year in distracted driver-related car accidents. In 2014 there were 5.6 million car crashes reported to police nationwide, 16 percent of which were caused by distracted drivers, resulting in 424,000 injuries, according to NHTSA.

However, despite all the campaigns NHTSA conducts extolling the dangers of distracted driving, people continue to put their lives at risk to check their phone. Therefore, instead of trying to get people to stop distracted driving all together, NHTSA has developed guidelines so cell phones and electronic devices installed in vehicles, provide as little a distraction to drivers as possible.

How Will the Guidelines Reduce Distracted Driving?

The guidelines date back to 2013, when Phase 1 of the distracted driving guideline was issued. The Phase 1 guidelines concerned equipment that comes installed in a vehicle at the time of purchase. The guidelines proposed that the interface of these instruments be simplified so drivers divert their attention away from the road less while using them.

Specifically, the Phase 1 guidelines asserted that a vehicle’s original equipment, from the navigation screen to the radio, should have an interface that minimizes driver glances away from the road to no more than two seconds. The guidelines go on to say that the sum of all time it takes to look away from the road and complete a task while driving should not eclipse 12 seconds.

The second phase of the guidelines recently issued by NHTSA, builds upon the recommendations made in Phase 1. For Phase 2, NHTSA recommended that mobile devices be easily “paired” with vehicles via bluetooth, and operated through the vehicle’s equipment that has Phase 1 technology applied. This would limit the use of any mobile device in the car to interfaces designed specifically for people driving, thereby limiting its ability to distract drivers.

Heard of Airplane Mode? What About ‘Driver Mode’?

For vehicles that are not built with the Phase 1 guidelines in mind, NHTSA is encouraging device makers to develop a “driver mode” to limit distractions.

Driver mode would prohibit drivers from using some of the most distracting functions on their mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle. Some of the most distracting things people do while driving that driver mode would prohibit include, playing videos, texting, using social-media apps, and browsing the internet.

The purpose of driver mode is to provide drivers with a simplified interface that will limit distractions. The guidelines suggest two ways for implementing this.

NHTSA wants driver mode to be automatically enacted when a mobile device is not paired with a vehicle with Phase 1 technology, as mentioned above, or as soon as the device recognizes that it is being used by a driver. This way, drivers are protected even if they decide not to pair their mobile device with their vehicle.

Such technology does exist, but it needs to be slightly more refined for the purpose mentioned above, according to NHTSA. Until then, NHTSA still recommends driver mode be implemented on mobile devices and people manually turn it on themselves, like they already do with airplane mode.

It should be noted, though, that NHTSA has no jurisdiction over anything but motor vehicles, and cannot force mobile device makers to install such software.

When Can I Expect to See This Implemented?

NHTSA has given drivers, car manufacturers, and mobile device makers a lot to think about when it comes to dealing with the distracted driving problem facing the U.S., but don’t expect anything to change soon.

The guidelines are merely recommendations, meaning manufacturers don’t need to follow them, and it would take time for all this technology to be installed even if manufacturers decided to include it in their vehicles and electronic devices. From developing all the necessary technology, to installing it in vehicles and mobile devices, there are many obstacles to quickly making these recommendations the new normal. Until they are, distracted driving will remain a significant cause of car accidents.

If you happen to be the victim of a car accident involving a distracted driver, our car accident attorneys may be able to help. Distracted driving is a growing problem in the U.S. and our attorneys might be able to help you file a personal injury lawsuit if the other driver was not paying proper attention to the road.

Contact us today by filling out a free, no-obligation case evaluation to find out exactly what our attorneys can do for you.

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