U.S. wants driv­ers’ phone ac­cess lim­ited

Baltimore Sun - - NA­TION - By Tom Kr­isher

DETROIT — The gov­ern­ment wants smart­phone mak­ers to lock out most apps when the phone is be­ing used by some­one driv­ing a car.

The vol­un­tary guide­lines un­veiled Wed­nes­day are de­signed to re­duce crashes caused by driv­ers dis­tracted by phones. The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion also wants au­tomak­ers to make in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems easy to pair with smart­phones.

Driv­ers could still make calls but the phones and au­tomaker sys­tems would lock out the abil­ity to en­ter text. In­ter­net brows­ing, video not re­lated to driv­ing, text from books, and pho­tos also would be locked out. Nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems would be per­mit­ted, but with guide­lines on how to avoid driver dis­trac­tion.

Fa­tal crashes caused by dis­tracted driv­ers are on the rise, and that’s con­tribut­ing to a spike in traf­fic deaths dur­ing the past two years. The gov­ern­ment says 3,477, or about 10 per­cent, of the more than 35,000 traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties last year in­volved dis­tracted driv­ers. That’s up 8.8 per­cent over 2014. Traf­fic deaths spiked 10.4 per­cent in the first six months of this year and rose 7.2 per­cent last year, af­ter years of de­clines.

“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 driv- ers’ eyes where they be­long — on the road,” NHTSA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mark Rosekind said in a state­ment.

Au­tomak­ers al­ready are mov­ing in this di­rec­tion, with many of­fer­ing Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto that pair smart­phones to car touch screens and al­low lim­ited use of the phone apps. NHTSA wants phone mak­ers to de­velop tech­nol­ogy that can deter­mine if some­one is driv­ing a car and then dis­able most of the apps. But at present, that tech­nol­ogy doesn’t ex­ist.

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