It's illegal to text while driving in California, yet that doesn't seem to deter the many people tap tap tapping away behind the wheel. With that in mind, Consumerist reports that safety regulators have proposed a technical solution — a "driver mode" for phones that restricts a device's use. Think "airplane mode," but potentially even more restrictive.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal, distracted driving resulted in 3,477 fatalities last year — an increase from the year before — and that most often the cause of the distraction was a cell phone. With NHTSA research showing that, on average, a person looks at a phone for 23 seconds for every text message sent it is clear that no matter how "good" someone is at multitasking they are still taking their eyes off the road every time they send that eggplant emoji.
"While NHTSA acknowledges that there are many available technology solutions, state laws, and consumer information campaigns designed to help reduce distracted driving," officials write, "the agency believes that an important way to help mitigate the real-world risk posed by driver distraction from portable devices is for these devices to have limited functionality and simplified interfaces when they are used by drivers while driving." In other words, people can't be trusted to follow the law.
And so what is to be done? NHTSA officials are hoping that phone manufactures like Apple and Samsung will build future phones with features that prevent drivers from doing the following:
- Displaying video not related to driving;
- Displaying certain graphical or photographic images;
- Displaying automatically scrolling text;
- Manual text entry for the purpose of text-based messaging, other communication, or internet browsing; and
- Displaying text for reading from books, periodical publications, web page content,
- social media content, text-based advertising and marketing, or text-based messages
Driver Mode would need to be manually turned on, like airplane mode, meaning that drivers could just ignore it — as some do with the current no-texting laws. However, in the future, officials hope that the mode can be automatic. Theoretically this would happen after a phone has been "paired" with a car, or when driver-detection technology is at a point that phones can automatically determine who is a driver and who is a passenger.
Until that time, however, just put down the damn phone.