NHTSA Proposes Rules to Lock Phone Apps for Drivers While Moving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a proposal for voluntary guidelines aimed at making sure drivers are less distracted by phones, first by having smartphone manufacturers lock out most apps when the phone is being used by someone driving a car and second by making infotainment systems easier to pair with smartphones.
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The apps that would be locked out include any that involve entering text, including internet browsing, video unrelated to driving, book text, and photos. These would be blocked on phones that are paired to on-board computer systems.
Not surprisingly, people have a problem with that, not the least being technology lobbies. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association accused the NHTSA of overstepping its regulatory bounds, saying in a statement, “NHTSA’s approach to distracted driving is disturbing. Rather than focus on devices which could reduce drunk driving, they have chosen to exceed their actual authority and regulate almost every portable device. This regulatory overreach could thwart the innovative solutions and technologies that help drivers make safer decisions from ever coming to market.”
On the other hand, distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents, with traffic fatalities related to distraction rising alarmingly in the past two years. Many automakers are already moving to decrease cell phone use by giving the driver access to features like texting, phone calls, and music through voice commands in their car’s infotainment systems, many of which use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Still others, like safety group the National Safety Council, believe that making suggested regulations isn’t going far enough. The NSC wrote, “While expecting voluntary compliance with federal guidelines is a laudable goal, the history of traffic safety in the U.S. is replete with examples in which voluntary compliance did not result in significant behavior change.” In other words, the NSC would prefer if the rules were mandatory.
The guidelines at this point are still a proposal, and should they be enacted would not require any phone manufacturers to comply (although often industries are expected to comply with voluntary regulatory guidelines).