NHTSA Proposed New Guidelines To Reduce Distracted Driving.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed new guidelines in an effort to reduce distracted driving associated with mobile devices and other electronic devices. The voluntary guidelines ask manufacturers to implement pairing, in which the device is synchronized with the vehicle’s infotainment system, and a Driver Mode, which creates a simpler interface. The goal is to remove potential distractions so the driver can remain focused on the road in front of them.
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“As millions of Americans take to the roads for Thanksgiving gatherings, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cellphones,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a Nov. 23, 2016 press release. “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.”
Regulators are focusing more on distracted driving, in light of recent statistics on traffic deaths. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of highway deaths increased to 35,092 last year, the largest one-year spike seen since 1966. The increase in fatalities, which equated to a 7.2 percent increase, was attributed to more driving, drunken driving, speeding and distracted driving from phones and other devices.
In 2015, 3,477 people died in car accidents. In roughly 10 percent of those fatalities, there was at least one distracted driver, said NHTSA.
“NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind, according to the release. “With driver distraction one of the factors behind the rise of traffic fatalities, we are committed to working with the industry to ensure that mobile devices are designed to keep drivers’ eyes where they belong -on the road.”
NHTSA is taking public comments on its proposed guidelines. The agency reminds drivers to take certain safety precautions to reduce distracted driving. This includes putting down your mobile device and keeping your eyes on the road. If you are using an electronic device for directions, do so before operating the vehicle. If you are a passenger and the driver is using a device while driving, speak up; offer to call or text so the driver can focus on the road. Drivers and passengers should always wear their seatbelts. NHTSA says they are “the best defense against other unsafe drivers”.
Star Tribune reported that the guidelines are being applauded by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who has dedicated efforts to reduce distracted driving. “I have met with families across Minnesota that have lost loved ones when a driver took his or her eyes off the road, and their heartbreaking stories remind us that stopping distracted driving is a matter of life and death,” she said. “Smartphone manufacturers and app developers have a role to play in addressing the spike in distracted driving, and I hope the proposed voluntary guidelines will help move this conversation forward and [reinforce] the message that no text, tweet or snap is worth dying for.”
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving encompasses any activity that directs a driver’s attention away from the task of driving, the Department of Transportation states on its website dedicated to reducing distracted driving. Distracted driving may include using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system, watching a video, or changing a radio station. The DOT notes that text message is “by far the most alarming distraction” because it diverts the driver’s vision and cognitive focus away from the road.
DOT lists various distracted driving statistics. In 2014, distracted drivers were involved in 431,000 auto accident injuries; 3,179 people died. The largest proportion of distracted drivers are between the ages of 15 and 19. Among this group of drivers, 10 percent were involved in fatal crashes caused by distracted driving. Among all fatal crashes, 23 percent involve drivers in their 20s. However, these drivers make up 27 percent of distracted drivers and 38 percent of distracted drivers who were using cell phones during fatal accidents.
Statistics from NHTSA indicate that more drivers are using mobile devices. In 2013, 1.7 percent of drivers text-messaged or visibly manipulated handheld devices. This increased to 2.2 percent the following year. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 have been seen using electronic devices more since 2007.
Since 2010, roughly 660,000 are using mobile devices while driving at any given daylight moment across the country, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS).
Erie Insurance conducted a distracted driving survey and found that drivers engage in a variety of risky activities while driving, including brushing teeth and changing clothes. Additionally, one-third of survey responders said they text while driving. Three-quarters said they witnessed someone else texting while driving.
On average, your eyes are off the road for five seconds while texting. VTTI pointed out in 2009 that this is enough time to travel the length of a football field when traveling at 55 miles per hour.
More and more individuals own smartphones. According to State Farm, 52 percent of drivers owned a smartphone in 2011. This figure increased to 80 percent by 2012. The spike in smart phone ownership was greatest among drivers aged 40 and older.
Parker Waichman comments that distracted driving places everyone on the road at risk. Using a mobile device or engaging in another activity while driving can easily result in a serious injury or death. The firm has spent years advocating for patient safety and continues to fight for the rights accident victims, including car accident victims.