Developments in Fight against Distracted Driving Accidents


Developments in Fight against Distracted Driving Accidents

NHTSA Proposes Phone Manufacturers Install App Blockers

Distracted driving causes serious auto accidents.  There’s no way to know the true number of fatal traffic deaths caused by drivers distracted from the road.  It’s a very big problem facing every driver today.

For more on the epidemic of distracted driving accidents in Indiana, Illinois, and the rest of the nation, read our earlier posts including:

Distracted Drivers Using Their Phones

Of course, distractions involve more than just phones.   However, most agree that the main reason that we are experiencing such an alarming increase in distracted driving accidents is because drivers are choosing to focus more on their phones than on the road.

New NHTSA Guidelines

Last month, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced that the federal government has drafted new federal guidelines for phone manufacturers.

Specifically, the federal government asks companies that make cell phones and smart phones to install a “driving mode” feature into their devices.

The “driving mode” feature would automatically prevent the driver from using apps on the phone while their vehicle is moving.  The full text of the NHTSA Guidelines (96 page PDF) is available to read online here.

Explains Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx:

“These commonsense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road.”

These are the second phase of the federal agency’s fight against distracted driving.   Back in April 2013, NHTSA issued guidelines regarding devices built into motor vehicles that might distract the driver.  Things like stereos, navigation devices (GPS), and communications aides (hands-free phones, etc.).

Now, NHTSA is focusing on the phone devices held by the driver, not on the gizmos installed in the vehicle itself.

Driving Mode Block

How will these things work?   According to the NHTSA Guidelines, the federal government envisions a driver’s phone working together with his or her car (or truck, SUV, minivan, etc.).

The phone’s new “driving mode” app would block the driver from using the phone to text by doing things like disabling the keyboard.  Images and videos would be delayed until the driver was no longer in the car.

Lots of other things would be blocked, too.  Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites would be blocked while the car was in motion.  Ditto, things like reading e-books on the device.

Is This a New Federal Law? No.

These new NHTSA guidelines are just that – guidance from the federal government.  The “driving mode” for smartphones is not a proposed federal regulation.  It’s not a federal law that will be effective anytime soon.

Whether or not phone manufacturers decide to comply with the NHTSA guidelines is up to the individual company.  Some may do so, others may not.

Federal lawmakers may not act to force phone companies to install the “driving mode” feature into new smartphones.  This proposal comes out of a single federal agency.

Whether or not the agency moves forward to make this a formal agency regulation (law out of the Executive Branch) is not clear.  Right now, this is a voluntary act on the part of phone manufacturers.  NHTSA thinks it’s a good idea, and has issued its reasons why in the Guidelines.

Comments Period Opens December 5, 2016

Yesterday, NHTSA’s Guidelines, entitled “Visual-Manual Driver Distraction Guidelines for Portable and Aftermarket Devices,” was published online and open for comments and suggestions from the general public.

We’re in the two month time period where NHTSA is gathering public comments on the Guidelines before determining what steps to take in the future. 

Will any or all of these suggestions turn into federal regulations?  Maybe.

If you have suggestions regarding the “driving mode” app in smartphones, then feel free to submit them to NHTSA online.

State Lawmakers May Act, Too

For Hoosiers and those driving in Illinois, the question may not be what happens in Washington.  State lawmakers here in Indiana and Illinois will be reading these new NHTSA guidelines as closely as the phone manufacturers.

Here in Indiana and Illinois, state legislation can be proposed independently of the federal system.  It may be that requiring drivers to have a “driving mode” app installed will soon be a part of our state law driving requirements.  Stay tuned.

Distracted Driving Remains a Serious Danger for Auto Accidents and Truck Crashes

Today, more and more serious and fatal accidents on our roads are caused by distracted driving.  The federal government has been working for several years now to try and make U.S. roads safer for drivers.

The Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving was published back in 2012 by the Department of Transportation.

Nevertheless, drivers in Indiana and Illinois face an extreme danger of being involved in a serious car crash, auto accident, or big rig crash caused by a negligent driver who has been distracted from the job of driving his vehicle.

Distracted driving remains an accident risk of epidemic proportions today.  Add to that another big problem: proving it.

Difficulty in Proving Distraction as the Cause of the Crash

Finding evidence the driver was driving distracted at the time of impact is another big concern for those who help accident victims who have been injured in distracted driving accidents.

Detailed and complicated investigations may be needed to discover and confirm that a driver was driving distracted at the time of the crash.  Phone records, data downloads from the smart phone, witness statements, visual inspection of the driver’s car interior, and more may be needed here. 

Which means that not only is distracted driving a huge cause for concern, but the need to find the evidence to prove the driver was distracted is a big problem today, as well.  Let’s be careful out there!

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