Every driver has a responsibility to avoid distractions while behind the wheel. This is especially true when it comes to high-risk behaviors such as texting or using cellphone apps while driving.
But do the developers of those apps also have a role to play in preventing distracted driving?
They should – at least according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last month, the federal agency recommended that app developers include features to lock out drivers who are behind the wheel. For example, apps could link to the vehicle’s transmission, sensing when it’s in gear and blocking manual text entry until the vehicle is back in the park. Or they could feature a “driver mode” that locks out the app completely.
The agency also recommended that automakers take a more active role in limiting electronic distractions.
There’s no doubt that distracted driving is one of the biggest safety problems of our time. Last year alone, more than 3,500 people lost their lives due to driver distraction. At least 1 out of every 10 traffic deaths involves distraction – likely more, according to the NHTSA, which believes many distracted driving accidents go unreported.
While we can all agree that distracted driving is a significant danger, determining the best way to prevent it is less clear-cut. Several trade groups in the electronics industry oppose the NHTSA’s recommendations, saying they go too far in requiring developers to include features that could stifle innovation. On the other hand, the National Transportation Safety Board – the federal agency responsible for investigating and reporting accident data – recommends an all-out ban on cellphone and tablet use behind the wheel.
Regardless of the legal implications for distracted driving, we can all help keep the roads safe by putting away mobile devices while driving.