In late November, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put forward guidelines meant to deal with the problem of driver distraction due to portable electronic devices in vehicles, including mobile devices such as smartphones. The announcement revealed the second phase of the NHTSA’s voluntary guidelines. The first phase addressed systems or devices that were already built into vehicles.

These guidelines are meant for manufacturers, not drivers, in order to encourage the implementation of features such as “Driver Mode”—a simplified interface that would help users who might be on the road. Driver Mode would have both an automatic option and a manual option; automatic would mean the device would start Driver Mode if the device detected it was being used by the driver. Driver Mode would not activate when a non-driver was using the device.

Another functionality that the NHTSA would like to see implemented includes pairing, where a portable device links to the vehicle’s infotainment system. In the press release, the NHTSA said, “Both pairing and Driver Mode will reduce the potential for unsafe driver distraction by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road, while at the same time preserving the full functionality of these devices when they are used at other times.”

Also on the list of features that the NHTSA wants carried out is lockout, which would prevent someone who was driving from using most apps. For example, calls could still be accomplished, but texting would be prevented, along with internet browsing not related to driving, social media, reading material such as books and magazines, viewing certain images, and some other activities not related to driving. Navigation systems would be allowed.

During 2015, according to the NHTSA, 10 percent of the country’s traffic fatalities—3,477—involved at least one distracted driver. This number represented an 8.8 percent increase over 2014, when the total was 3,197. In 2014’s non-fatal crashes, 16 percent involved distraction, with roughly 424,000 persons injured.

The NHTSA wants public comments on its proposed guidelines. Written comments can be submitted online. In the meantime, reduce your chances of distraction by taking the following precautions:

  • Focus on the road and traffic, not your cell phone or other device.
  • If you are using your phone or other device for directions, set the destination before you start driving.
  • If you are a passenger, speak up if you see the driver using a device. Offer to text or call for them so their attention stays on driving.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Make sure your passengers do as well or are in approved child safety seats.

How Can “The Injury Lawyer” Help You?

Distracted driving is illegal in Maryland. At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a vehicular accident, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Contact Steve today for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878, or use our online form.