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Federal Agency Seeks to Regulate Smartphone Maps

Do you use a smartphone map application like Siri or Google Maps to help you get around town? Do you think using a navigation app on your cell phone counts as distracted driving? Could you get a ticket for looking for an alternate route in a traffic jam?

The United States Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) think you should. The Obama administration has proposed a new bill called the GROW AMERICA Act. The bill addresses a lot of different transportation and infrastructure issues from repairing bridges to punishing automakers who don’t recall faulty vehicles. It would also give the NHTSA the authority to regulate smartphone maps and in-car navigational aids the way it now regulates mechanical features of cars.

But technology companies are opposing the bill, claiming that the NHTSA can’t keep up with the industry. Digital rights advocates claim that the apps are not inherently dangerous and can often be used by passenger.

Distracted driving is a problem no matter what the cause. Last year, the Transportation Department released voluntary guidelines for in-vehicle devices that:

[A]ny navigation system should not take more than two seconds for a single interaction, and 12 seconds total. At 60 miles an hour, two seconds is 176 feet.

The problem is that any application, from phone dialer to text message, to map application, takes your eyes and mind off the road in front of you and hands off the wheel. A lot can happen in the time it takes to enter an address, especially when moving at highway speeds.

The best way to avoid the risks of distracted driving is to enter your destination before hitting the road. Many applications do have voice options, which can help minimize the distraction. But whenever possible, you should still avoid adjusting you device while moving. If you need to make changes to your navigational app, ask a passenger to do it for you, or pull off to the side of the road.

Auto accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Distracted driving is responsible for hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. David Christensen and his team at Christensen Law in Southfield have dedicated their practice to the victims of auto accidents. If someone you know has been injured in an accident with a distracted driver, contact the auto accident experts at Christensen law for a consultation.