Distracted Driving Guidelines: Too Much or Too Little Oversight?


I saw the other day that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released new, proposed, guidelines designed to combat distracted driving accidents and deaths. Just how do they plan on doing this? They want your cell phone to know when it’s in a moving vehicle and for it to pair (where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system) with your car and to have a ‘Driver Mode’ (a simplified user interface) that would be active while you’re driving.

Now neither of these things sounds like a bad thing. My last car had Blue Connect, and I could make and answer calls through my car rather than having to hunt for my phone when it rang. Basically, it ‘paired’ with my car (when I remembered to turn the Bluetooth on), it even called it that. And I know that trying to make a call on my smart phone when I’m driving can be a pain, so a simplified user interface could be useful.

If you stop and think about it, though… Your phone could make all apps and games off limits while your phone is in a moving vehicle. Texting will definitely not be available. But just how will your phone know you’re in the car, and whether or not you’re actually driving?


Pokemon Go 'You're going too fast' in game message.

Screen grab from Pokemon Go.

Well, they could use your smartphone’s accelerometer and use it to decide if you should be in ‘Driver Mode’ or not, but that would affect your passengers as well. Not to mention how annoying it would be to anyone on public transportation. The app Pokemon Go has done just that, if you’re moving above a certain speed a message pops up stopping the game to make sure you aren’t driving until you press the ‘I’m a passenger’ button. You can see it to the left.



I suppose we are lucky that the NHTSA knows that what they are proposing could really annoy the general public as this is a part of their proposal:

NHTSA has learned that technologies to detect whether a driver or passenger is using a device have been developed but are currently being refined such that they can reliably detect whether the device user is the driver or a passenger and are not overly annoying and impractical.

So, until they come up with better technology/apps, they’ll have to fall back on the actual users activating ‘Driver Mode’ themselves. Considering how often I remembered to activate my Bluetooth when I was driving, I can bet that only a specific group of drivers would actually do it.


2 thoughts on “Distracted Driving Guidelines: Too Much or Too Little Oversight?

  1. Good article. My car and phone connect automatically via Bluetooth whenever I turn on the ignition, so I don’t have to remember, and in my settings, while I’m in driving mode, text messages are deflected by an outgoing message that says I’m driving and will respond later. However, here in England there’s talk of banning all mobile phone use including hands free because it’s been shown that, while concentrating on a call, your mind’s eye is seeing what you’re discussing, not absorbing what’s going on around you.


    • Thanks! Those are all really great things for your car to do. Did you have to do an initial ‘pairing’ with your mobile and your car before they’d automatically connect? I kind of think this sort of thing is going to become the norm at some point. But I have a feeling there are enough people who will want to fight it.


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