By on November 28, 2016

Texting and Driving

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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48 Comments on “NHTSA’s Cell Phone Proposal is ‘Disturbing’: Technology Group...”


  • avatar
    energetik9

    “which would be voluntary even if made official”

    This has success and behavior modification written all over it. Right.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    It’s real easy; if you cause a collision that leads to injury or death because you were playing with your phone, you get your license taken away for life.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      It may not mean so much to the families of those victims that the perpetrator loses a piece of paper that had allowed him to kill their loved ones legally.

    • 0 avatar
      Ridgerunner

      How many stories do we hear of someone causing an accident while having a suspended license? Taking it away means nothing to some people, they will commit an illegal act if it benefits them, no regard for their fellow citizens.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        That’s why they should be jailed for the duration of the suspension if they’re caught driving.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Exactly. Years ago, a co-worker (along with a few other vehicles) were run off the road by a wrong way driver. He was drunk and had no license (it was revoked from previous incidents).

        The proposal is reasonable if applied only to the driver, leaving the passengers free to text as they wish.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Why include only certain forms of negligence? Any reason for causing a death should qualify.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      Normally I’d advocate the death penalty in this case, but I’ll save that for a second offense. Driving without a license, where the license was taken away for a case like this, that’s capital punishment right there.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Who cares about phone? What about reading a porn mag?

      Why not “If you harm or kill someone because you drive around voluntarily engaged in a distracting activity that crosses the threshold for criminal negligence, regardless of specifics, you hang by the neck until dead. Otherwise, keep on driving free from harassment. Manage your risk exposure accordingly.”

      Done.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I think the “injury or death” part isn’t necessary.

      If you cause a collision and you were using your phone, you lose your license.

      But only if we do the same thing with alcohol. If you cause an accident and have alcohol in your sustem, you lose your license.

      It still boggles my mind that a guy at work has like 8 DUIs and has a special “DUI license plate” but still drives. Get that guy off the road!

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Since when has NHTSA had any authority over cell phones? I would think that any directives concerning personal electronic devices would have to come from the FCC.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    “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.”

    Isn’t there? I mean, given the skyrocketing death rate on highways…oh wait…

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “There’s no denying that distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic”

      Ban hot chicks from convertibles or cars without extremely dark tinted windows.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      On my 25 minute commute this morning, there were two cars driving over the center line and one stopped at the stop sign and took off again without looking. In all three cases had I been as distracted as them there would have been a collision. The only reason there aren’t more accidents is there are enough people paying attention to the idiots.

      • 0 avatar
        S2k Chris

        That’s a nice anecdote, but again, the actual data tells us that the rate of fatal accidents is falling and/or has stayed stagnant/low for the last couple decades, which corresponds to the timeline when smartphone ownership exploded. If we were actually in crisis, the numbers would reflect it. They don’t. We aren’t.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_safety_in_the_United_States

        • 0 avatar
          jkross22

          Chris, how about data that shows frequency of non-fatality accidents?

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            The data’s a bit sketchy. According to the CDC, distracted driving accounts for about 10% of traffic fatalities. However, diving into the data a bit, cell phones are a factor in 14% of those incidents. So cell phone use is a factor in about 1.4% of auto fatalities. Not sure that constitutes an epidemic.

            http://www.distraction.gov/downloads/pdfs/Distracted_Driving_2013_Research_note.pdf

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Lol @ them trying to move the goalposts to drunk driving. I’m pretty sure distracted driving has surpassed it in terms of damage to people and property.

  • avatar
    turf3

    How about this:

    When the car senses that someone has attempted to make a call/text on a cell phone, it gradually and smoothly applies the brakes until the car comes to a full stop, then turns the engine off, flashes the hazard lights, and sounds the horn until the cell phone is turned off.

  • avatar
    JMII

    This is why auto braking can’t come soon enough because the horse is already out of the barn when it comes to using phones while driving. The irony is people texting their loved ones with messages regarding their late arrival time due to how the bad the traffic is thanks to someone who was not paying attention and crashed while texting about how bad the traffic is.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      There’s a flip side… when you have auto braking, auto steering, and auto adjusting cruise… like I have… it actually tempts you to glance at your phone because your “car has it”.

      Mind you my wife thought I was crazy because I actually put my phone on mute in the car and refuse to pick it up.

      I wonder if auto braking and what not may actually decrease the risk of using said devices and therefore increase its use as a sideproduct?

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    They would really freak at my solution: If the GPS in your phone detects a speed greater than 10 mph, the only number you can communicate with is 9-1-1.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    So, automakers want to ban waze, maps, etc., phone makers want NHTSA to butt out, and NHTSA wants the phone to know who’s touching it while it’s mounted to the dash… I want a winning lotery ticket and a rainbow pony. Hey, NHTSA: get on my wishlist.

  • avatar

    Eyes Down.
    Light goes green, five seconds go by. finally, cars move.

    Eyes down.
    Left Lane, 62 in a 70-ish 65 zone. The reflection of the smartphone upon her face in the dim light. I’ve seen this one many times but the open laptop or huge ipad is usually male and equally dangerous. Sometimes they look theatrically backlit !

    Eyes down.
    Traffic jams…. traffic moves, car does not. Pecking away at texts.

    All day, every day.

    I really get peeved when you know the car has bluetooth but they don’t use it.

    Texting is more of a danger than DWI. Some states have no cell phone laws, others are nuts like NY, where in NYC, cops walk up to you in traffic and give you a ticket. Sadly, that is the least dangerous place drivers use these.

  • avatar
    George B

    Ultimately the driver is responsible for his or her driving. Not messing with the phone while driving is no different than stopping a conversation with a passenger or turning off the radio when difficult driving conditions demand your full attention. The main issue is that people spend lots of time in cars not driving. Both as passengers and as drivers stopped waiting to drive. I don’t mind people responding to a text while stopped at a red light.

    Driving while drunk is a little different in that you can choose to ignore the phone, but you can’t quickly become not drunk when road conditions demand your full attention. Both reaction time and judgement are impaired for hours.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    As of January 1st, it will be illegal to even have a smartphone on display here in Saskatchewan. That should be interesting. A lot of people here have them mounted on the dash, often in use as navigation.

  • avatar
    RHD

    The picture is rather amateurish – if she were really steering, the car would be going in circles. Look closely at the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Why not have some form of disabling function in the vehicle?

    This shouldn’t be hard to engineer.

    Make it operate in such a way to disable a vehicle if your phone is not connected to your infotainment system or whatever.

    This will not affect your freedom to have your phone when driving.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’m a little puzzled how voluntary guidelines could possibly qualify as “regulatory overreach”. If the guidelines are voluntary, are there ANY limits to what they can publicly issue? I mean, if the NHTSA wants to publish This Great Nation’s Most Delicious (and Voluntary) Guacamole Recipe, can’t they?

    A voluntary guideline is, by definition, not a regulation.

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    As a Millennial, I can vouch for myself that when I’m driving, I leave my smartphone locked up inside the glove compartment and only touch it in emergency circumstances. With my other friends, they do many more things.

    From a Technological Perspective, I do not consider a forced driving mode a solution. Instead, I see people (especially ones with Android Phones) can root[hack] their phones to circumvent these measures.

    When you think about it, dealing with a slower/lack of input device makes driving more of a distraction. In our 2 Toyotas, you cannot plug in addresses while the car is in motion. This ends up leading to many times plugging the information in at stoplights with car horns honking and an exchange of friendly gestures. Imagine this with a cell phone in driving mode. Your trying to call a friend as a contact and, since your phone only allows family members to call, you can’t.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Studies have shown that the level of distraction talking on the phone is the same whether you are holding your phone in your hand or dialing hands-free. The way they wrote the law here really doesn’t do much to discourage people, just punishes those who thought they wouldn’t get caught.

    To wit, a co-worker has a setup where they can attach their phone in front of the gauge cluster and watch a movie.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Interesting to see how this would work for GA pilots who have adopted mobile technology with a vengeance to provide aviation charts, GPS, weather and calculation of time/speed/distance. If fly with both my phone and my iPad mounted in the airplane.

    Flying is very different from driving. Pilots need more detailed information (runway information, radio frequencies, ATC information, etc.), yet have more leeway with respect to immediate control (losing 100 feet of altitude or drifting slight to left or right isn’t the issue in the air that it would be in a car).

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The irony of all of this is pretty rich. For those old enough to remember, cell phones originally were car phones. That was because they were analog and transmitted 5 watts of output, far beyond the capabilities of any portable device. The slick installations had the handset in a cradle between the front seats, with the numbered buttons on top. If you were savy, you could program speed dial and get by with just pressing two digits (assuming you could remember which two digits connected you with the party you intended to call). No one was yapping about distracted driving then.

    That said, the proliferation of touch-screen menus in cars to operate all kinds of things, like the radio, the heat and the communications system makes for considerable distraction — even without the smartphone.

    And I have to say, the Waze app kinds of ticks me off because people are always sending in stupid warnings (car stopped by the side of the road, pothole, etc.) which certainly is a distraction for the person sending. And then the app wants to know from the rest of us when we pass the location of the warning if it’s still there. I will admit that real warnings from Waze are useful — traffic jam, accident, speed trap; but this other stuff is just clutter.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “cell phones originally were car phones”

      You’re not going as far back as Peter Gunn’s car phone in his DeSoto/Fury are you?

      Edit: Found a marvelously detailed history with copious photos of the old tech:

      wb6nvh.com/MTSfiles/Carphone1.htm

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      In Waze, when you report a hazard, you are the hazard.

      • 0 avatar
        arach

        Yes… one of the things that drives me crazy about waze is I can’t report a hazard LATER…

        Like say there’s an accident. I’m not going to report the accident while passing the accident. However, in 3 minutes when I get off the highway and fill up with Gas, i’d like to help people know there’s an accident, but you can’t do it.

        The only way to report things is to dangerously use your phone while driving…

  • avatar
    arach

    My wife will only drive a manual car.

    She says it keeps her attentive and from being destracted by things like her phone.

    The more “automatic” my car gets, the more easily distracted I am. After all, when my car steers itself, radar cruise controls itself, and stops itself if there’s a hazard, I can literally drive all the way to work on the highway without so much as touching the gas, brake, or steering wheel.

    Do that a few times and you start to trust it so much you question, “Why DON’T I do something else if I’m not driving”.

    its a scary/slippery slope.

    The answer is- No infotainment. No auto trans. No auto cruise. No emergency Braking….

    But then wait, those features actually cut accidents down.

    Perfection is impossible. thats what makes it so challenging!

    I often drive 12+ hours. Could you imagine not being able to use your phone as a PASSENGER on a 12 hour drive? THAT’S enough to bypass any safety mechanism right there.

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