Everyone wants our roads to be safer from accidents caused by distracted driving, but on the other hand, everyone wants to have the freedom to use our cell phones, even while driving.
When the government gets involved in these issues, everyone has an opinion, as do those involved in the related industries. A recent proposal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make our streets and highways safer from distracted driving has received significant support and significant opposition.
As reported by the Seattle Times, the NHTSA proposed voluntary changes for smart-phone makers to add apps that would prevent drivers from using certain functions while their vehicles are in motion.
The reasoning for this proposal involves the dramatic increases in traffic death over the past year, including deaths caused involving distracted drivers. The article informs that last year saw at least 3,500 deaths due to driving distractions, including the most dramatic increase in highway accidents from one year to the next since 1966.
Of course, anyone involved in the design and manufacturer of smartphones and vehicles will have a significant interest in how the NHTSA’s proposal plays out.
Groups of automakers seem very much in favor of what the NHTSA is proposing here. With the amount of flak the auto industry has taken in recent years for the distractions of the in-dash technology in newer cars, along with previous NHTSA safety efforts focused on the auto industry’s in-dash enhancements, it makes sense. Many have argued that this in-dash technology has been an important aspect in the increase of distracted driving accidents.
Ford Elizabeth Weigandt, spokesperson for Ford Motors, is encouraged that the NHTSA is looking to other sources other than just automobiles when seeking causes of distracted driving accidents.
So, the auto industry is happy to have some of the attention drawn away from their industry. But the industry now under the microscope is not as happy about it.
According to the Seattle Times article, “The Consumer Technology Association, a trade group whose members include top smart phone makers Apple and Samsung Electronics, characterized the guidelines as ‘extreme.'”
Other opponents call the regulation “regulatory overreach,” saying the NHTSA lacks jurisdiction and the proposal “highly questionable, de facto regulation.”
To further complicate matters, the NHTSA’s proposal could potentially hinder the competitive race between smart phone manufacturers already working to provide driving safety features in their products.
Although the proposal – if adopted – would certainly make the roads safer, we are far from any agreement as to the appropriate approach.