Distracted driving is a serious issue, and the US government wants to further limit how you can use your phone when you’re behind the wheel.
This is the second phase of a set of voluntary guidelines, and this time, they’re targeting your phone instead of your car.
It was back in April 2013 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the first phase of guidelines. These focused on how a vehicle’s infotainment systems interact with our phones.
Those guidelines are the reason you can’t use every feature of your infotainment system when your car is in motion. The idea is to limit the amount of time that a driver’s eyes leave the road to no more than two seconds at a time for a total of 12 seconds to complete any one task.
It’s why you often can’t enter an address using the touchscreen or send a text message or access certain other features unless the car is completely stopped. Although this is a great idea for combating distracted driving, it doesn’t take into account the notion that there’s a passenger seat with a person who isn’t driving. The end result is frustration for driver and passenger, and the possibility that a driver ends up pulled over on the side of the road to input directions, which isn’t particularly safe either.
The second phase isn’t focused on how your car’s infotainment works, but on how your phone works. The proposal calls for the makers of portable electronic devices to make it easier to pair devices and to add what they’re calling a Driver Mode. This Driver Mode will have a less complex user interface and limit what a person is able to do with their phone.
Once again, this sounds like a great idea, but there’s huge potential for driver frustration because of that passenger the government keeps forgetting exists. When there’s a passenger, it’s not uncommon for the driver to ask to have a text message read and then ask the passenger to respond. That keeps the driver’s eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel. Driver Mode would make that impossible.
The guidelines are voluntary, so no one is required to add this feature and there’s no requirement that the public to use it even if it does exist. Safety features are great, but when they cause too much frustration like the dreaded lane keep assist, people turn them off. Drive Mode stands a pretty good chance of being a great safety feature that most people won’t use.