Enlarge / A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car in New York City.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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If you’re traveling on Thanksgiving weekend, you likely already have one of the most dangerous road hazards on your mind—fellow drivers who are paying more attention to their smartphones than to what’s on the road.
“Distracted driving” has been getting more attention because the government calculates that it is prevalent and is causing more car crashes.
Today, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration published guidelines calling on smartphone makers to create a “Driving Mode” that shuts down app-use while a car is in motion.
The 96-page voluntary guidelines (PDF), intended to reduce “driver distraction,” also call for cars to be more easily “paired” with mobile devices so that drivers can access them through an in-vehicle interface.
“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 US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.”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.”
The “driver mode” envisioned by NHTSA would lock out things like typing out text messages, as well as displays of images or video not related to driving maps.
It would also block most text content, like displays of most webpages, social media, books, and periodicals.
The NHTSA says it’s looking forward to developing technology that enables better “driver-passenger distinction,” presenting the possibility of a future in which phones automatically lock into some type of “driver mode” without needing the driver to initiate it.
Neither device makers nor vehicle manufacturers are required to meet any NHTSA guidelines, which are voluntary and non-binding. However, when state or national lawmakers are considering new laws related to driving, they often rely on NHTSA data and recommendations.
The NHTSA report includes sobering statistics about distracted driving.
In 2015, some 10 percent of the 35,092 traffic fatalities involved one or more distracted drivers, resulting in 3,477 fatalities.
That’s an 8.8 percent increase over 2014.
The proposed guidelines now enter a 60-day public comment period before the agency decides whether or not to put some version of them into place.
Comments can be submitted online at the relevant page on recommendations.gov.