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Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Distracted Driving by Mandating New Phone Features

Lady on a cell phone while driving

Distracted driving continues to take a substantial toll on American roadway occupants. While laws exist in nearly every state banning texting while driving, and law enforcement makes robust efforts to educate drivers of the risks they take by even looking at their phone while driving, the rates of fatal injury caused by distracted driving continue to rise. In the face of the growing dangers posed by distractions, the Department of Transportation has proposed voluntary guidelines for use by cell phone manufacturers and carriers that would impose greater restrictions on phone technologies once a car is in motion.

As we discussed in a previous blog post, the total number of roadway fatalities increased by 7.2% in 2015, which marked the first year since the 1960s that traffic deaths increased over those occurring in the previous year. According to analysis of these statistics, 3,500 individuals, or 10% of all of 2015’s traffic fatalities were killed in crashes where at least one driver was distracted at the time of the crash. This marked a nearly-9% increase over the number of deaths linked to distracted driving in 2014.

In response to the increase in deaths associated with distracted driving, Anthony Foxx, the secretary of the Department of Transportation, recently announced the creation of voluntary guidelines for smartphone manufacturers, calling on them to add features to their phones’ operating systems which would bar certain videos from being displayed while the car is in motion, as well as prevent manual entry of text. Foxx said, “far too many [Americans] are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cell phones. 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.”

In order to bring these limitations into effect, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested that phone software developers create a “driver mode” that automatically prohibits certain functions on the phone when a car shifts from “park” to “drive,” but would continue to allow navigational applications. While consumer electronic manufacturer groups pushed back against the suggestions, safety groups welcomed the news, including a representative from the Consumers Union, the branch of Consumer Reports that deals with public policy. William Wallace, analyst for the Consumers Union, noted, “The problem of distracted driving has grown into an epidemic. These guidelines could help stem the increase in traffic deaths that we’ve seen in the last two years.”

If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash with a reckless or distracted driver in West Virginia, contact the compassionate, effective, and experienced Martinsburg personal injury lawyers at Burke, Schultz, Harman & Jenkinson for a free consultation at 304-263-0900.

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