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DOT Fights Distracted Driving with Voluntary Guidelines

Distracted driving deaths have become an everyday reality for American drivers. To fight this trend, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued voluntary guidelines for manufacturers, that could help keep motorists’ eyes on the road.

Distracted driving has been around for a long time. Whether it was a child yelling in the back seat, or a static-filled radio station, drivers have always had things pull at their attention.

But the advent of the smart phone has increased the risk of distracted driving tremendously. As cell phones become smarter and more prevalent, drivers are finding it harder to look away. That increased level of distraction is putting everyone on the road at risk.

In 2015, 10% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. were connected to distracted driving. 3,477 people died because someone took their eyes off the road. That number is up nearly 9% from 2014. That year, a total of 424,000 people were hurt in distraction-related accidents. Many of those crashes can be tied directly to cell phone use. In 2014, a total of 404 people died and 33,000 people were hurt as a direct result of cell-phone distraction.

But laws against distracted driving or texting while driving only go so far. One theory says that checking one’s cell phone is addictive. Without help, drivers may not be able to resist taking their eyes off the road.

To that end, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released proposed voluntary guidelines. These recommended policies help smart phone designers and manufacturers take steps to minimize the length of visual-manual distraction. Activities that cause a person to look away from the road and take physical action, like texting or entering an address into GPS, are particularly likely to cause accidents.

The voluntary guidelines include allowing mobile devices to pair with a vehicle’s on-board computer, and enabling a simplified user interface called Driver Mode. These steps will reduce the risk of distracted driving by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road. Devices will remain fully functional when not being used while driving.

“NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive,” said 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.”

The NHTSA’s review of the voluntary guidelines is now open for public comment. You can submit written comments at Regulations.gov.

Distracted driving puts everyone at risk. Until manufacturers begin to adopt the DOT’s voluntary guidelines, it will be up to drivers to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road and their minds on driving.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He helps the victims of distracted drivers receive compensation for their injuries. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, contact Christensen Law for a free consultation.