As part of a set of voluntary guidelines, the NHTSA has called for phones to switch to a ‘driving mode’ while the vehicle is in use, dulling the user interface in a ‘back to the 90s’ style of simplified communication.
The Administration believes better connectivity between phones and car infotainment systems would allow users to make full use of mapping, text-to-speech, hands-free calling and other services while effectively ‘blocking’ the phone’s other functions.
Combined, the NHTSA hopes drivers would then be forced to spend less time looking at their phones or infotainment screens and more time focusing on the job at hand.
"As millions of Americans take to the roads, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cellphones," US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, said.
"These common-sense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road."
This is the second phase in the NHTSA’s plan to cut down on driver distraction caused by mobile phones, with the first being a call to carmakers for better infotainment systems to be fitted as standard equipment to reduce the time spent with ‘eyes off the road’.
While arguably conceding that phone use while driving is an inevitability in the future, the NHTSA still maintains that a ‘zero use’ policy is the safest while behind the wheel.
"NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive," NHTSA’s Dr Mark Rosekind said.
"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."
If drivers insist on using phones while driving, the NHTSA suggests people ensure destinations are set for navigation programs prior to getting underway, while also calling on passengers to take a greater responsibility for road safety.
Passengers are urged to speak up if they feel the driver is acting dangerously, or offer to send texts or perform other functions for the driver, using the driver's phone.
The proposed guidelines are now open for public comment.
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