NHTSA Issues Distraction Guidelines: Industry Group Wets Itself

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued voluntary guidelines to device makers and app developers such as Apple, Google, etc., aimed at keeping drivers off their phones while actually driving.

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The Consumer Technology Association lost it, calling the guidelines “de-facto” regulations. Association CEO Gary Shapiro was quoted as saying, “NHTSA doesn’t have the authority to dictate the design of smartphone apps and other devices used in cars — its legal jurisdiction begins and ends with motor vehicle equipment.”

Which is why they are guidelines, right?

He went on “Under their vision, they would have the influence to control the design of technology products down to the fitness tracker worn on a driver. Such a vast and extreme expansion of NHTSA’s authority, if it were to happen, would have to be explicitly granted by Congress.”

Among the recommendations are:

  • that portable devices to be paired with in-car systems to be operated via the vehicle’s user interface,
  • that certain cell phone functions be disabled when paired with a vehicle, such as social media content displays, video playback, text entry or internet browsing,
  • and a lock out mode interface that limits the same functions when the device is not paired with the vehicle’s infotainment system.

All of which strike us as reasonable precautions and tackles distraction issues that many currently struggle with, even local law enforcement agencies.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers struck a more reasonable tone. Their spokesman was quoted as saying “We know that it’s critical that we all address distracted driving holistically — so the Alliance will review these guidelines very carefully.”

And NHTSA said the guidelines are voluntary and non-binding, and not formal regulations.

So, Consumer Technology Association, clean yourselves off and change your underwear. The NHTSA is doing its job: trying to make the roads safer for everyone. NHTSA said were 3,477 fatalities due to distracted driving in 2015, and that distraction was also factor in 16% of the 5.6 million non-fatal crashes in 2014. And the numbers continue to grow.

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