NHTSA's Cell Phone Proposal is 'Disturbing': Technology Group
There’s no denying that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic, but consumer and safety advocates are split on the best ways to tackle it.
While the proposed guidelines for mobile device makers issued last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration won applause from safety groups, one consumer technology organization has accused the regulator of overreach.
It’s a “slippery slope” argument, now that the federal government wants mobile devices to operate in the same way as in-car infotainment systems.
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, slammed the proposal. Describing distracted driving as “unsafe and unacceptable,” he said in a statement that tech companies have already helped by creating driver’s aids and hands-free calling solutions.
The folks at NHTSA wants more, however. The proposed guidelines — which would be voluntary even if made official — would see mobile device makers pressed to include a “driver’s mode” that locks out certain apps and games, as well as texting and other functions that could divert a driver’s attention. It also wants technology that detects “whether a driver or passenger is using a device.”
That’s where the CTA puts its foot down.
“NHTSA’s approach to distracted driving is disturbing,” said Shapiro. “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.”
The swing from in-car systems to mobile devices would be a “dangerously expansive” broadening of the regulator’s reach, he added. While it opposes the NHTSA’s guidelines, the CTA continues its support of “common-sense measures,” including state-level legislation.
On the opposite end of the field is the National Safety Council. In comments submitted to the regulator, it asked that the guidelines become mandatory. The group stated that “the history of traffic safety in the U.S. is replete with examples in which voluntary compliance did not result in significant behavior change.”
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a powerful D.C.-based industry lobby group, hasn’t taken a firm stand. In an email to The Detroit News, communications director Wade Newton stated, “We believe it’s important to encourage drivers to use in-vehicle systems rather than handheld personal electronic devices that were not engineered for use in the driving environment.”
[Source: The Detroit News]
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