Could a “Driver Mode” on Smartphones Reduce Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently gave device designers and drivers alike their first look at potential new guidelines meant to cut down on smartphone use behind the wheel. These guidelines are part of an effort focusing on offering a “driver mode” on all new smartphones that the NHTSA hopes will reduce distracted driving.

This news comes on the heels of an announcement that NHTSA estimates show a drastic increase in car accident fatalities in the first half of 2016 over the same period last year. The projections show that 17,775 people died in car accidents in the first six months of 2016, a 10.4 percent increase from the 16,100 deaths between January and June of 2015.

What are the proposed guidelines?

The proposed NHTSA guidelines target mobile device designers, and are the second phase of this plan. The first phase offered guidelines for navigation, stereos, and “infotainment” systems built into vehicles.

While these guidelines are still in the initial stages and will be voluntary, they encourage mobile phone developers to help prevent distracted driving in two ways:

  • Making pairing (e.g., with Bluetooth) easier; and
  • Creating a “driver mode” that limits available features

According to the NHTSA, these guidelines can greatly reduce the distractions a mobile device creates. A device designed based on these guidelines would quickly and easily pair with the car’s infotainment system. Once paired, the device’s “driver mode” would kick in.

While in driver mode, the motorist could access navigation, music programs, and voice calls through voice commands. However, the phone itself would only offer a very limited interface without access to texting, games, or the internet.

What is the status of these guidelines, and where do we go from here?

Currently, the NHTSA is in the early stages of developing these guidelines. They are still seeking public comment on them, and will refine them as necessary based on the feedback from motorists, tech designers, and others.

Even once approved, these design guidelines will be entirely voluntary, and apply only to new phones. Hopefully, however, we will see phone companies hop on board before approval of the final guidelines. Some phones already offer a “driver mode” designed to limit distractions while driving.

What can I do to minimize distractions behind the wheel without “driver mode”?

It may be years before all motorists have a smartphone equipped with these safety features and a car with the pairing system required to use it. In the meantime, it pays to know how to reduce your risk of a distracted driving crash. To avoid injuries due to distracted driving:

  • Stow your phone while driving
  • Silence your notifications to reduce the temptation to look
  • Enter your destination into your navigation app before starting the car
  • Set your playlist before leaving
  • Ask your driver to remain focused on the road if he seems distracted
  • Offer to take care of any smartphone, navigation, or radio tasks if you are a passenger
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times
  • Always wear your seat belt

Cordisco & Saile, LLC: Bucks County Distracted Driving Car Accident Attorneys

At Cordisco & Saile, LLC, we hope to help you prevent becoming the victim of a distracted driver. However, if you do suffer injuries in a distracted driving crash in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, we can help you get the compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and more.

Call us today at 215-642-2335 to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.