‘Driver mode’ proposed by NHTSA to lock certain cell phone features while driving

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Updated Dec 11, 2016
NHTSA has proposed a set of recommendations to cut down on distracted driving, including a cell phone mode that blocks certain functions.NHTSA has proposed a set of recommendations to cut down on distracted driving, including a cell phone mode that blocks certain functions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released a set of proposed guidelines to help cut down on distracted driving, including device pairing and asking cell phone manufacturers to develop a “driver mode” that blocks many of a phone’s functions. The new proposed guidelines, which are voluntary, are Phase 2 of NHTSA’s Driver Distraction Guidelines.

Pairing would link a phone to an in-vehicle system. NHTSA recommends that when a device is paired to a vehicle, the visual interface of the phone be inaccessible in order to prevent the driver from looking down at the phone. Only emergency services and emergency notifications would be available.

For phones that cannot be paired for any reason, NHTSA recommends a “driver mode” that locks out many functions of the phone. When in such a mode, NHTSA recommends drivers be locked out of the following functions:

  • Functions and tasks not intended to be used while driving
  • Manual text entry
  • Displaying video, except for maps
  • Displaying photos, except for maps
  • Automatic scrolling text
  • Displaying text to be read
  • Books, periodicals, web pages, social media and more

Until more technology is available to detect the difference between a driver and a passenger, NHTSA says manual activation is the best option for now, but adds that it “expects technologies that support automatic driver mode activation to be implemented as soon as practicable.”

“NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive,” says NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “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 seeking public comment on its proposed recommendations, which can be made here through Feb. 3, 2017. The full recommendations can be seen here.

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