Could a built-in “Driver Mode” on smartphones reduce distracted driving?

Girl talking on the phone and making up while driving

Nearly half a million people were injured and thousands more were killed in traffic accidents related to distracted driving in 2014, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Smartphones are one of the most common forms of distraction, especially because people are more connected now than ever.

As part of its initiative to reduce distracted driving, the NHTSA recently released guidelines to help mobile device manufacturers and app developers design products that reduce distraction on the road. Below, we share some of the highlights.

What kinds of smartphone features could reduce distracted driving?

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind explained, “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 drivers’ eyes where they belong — on the road.”

The NHTSA’s guidelines, which are voluntary, encourage electronic device developers to design products like smartphones and tablets that have built-in features such as:

  • Pairing, which allows a portable device to link to the vehicle’s infotainment system; and
  • Driver Mode, a user interface that disables functions that have nothing to do with driving

These anti-distraction features only deactivate certain nonessential functions, such as texting, playing games, or watching videos; drivers will still be able use basic functions such as navigation, voicemail, and music.

Driver Mode only activates when the portable device determines the driver is operating a vehicle. This means drivers will be able to use their device in its full capacity in non-driving situations.

Also, passengers will still be able to use the device without any limitations.

“Both pairing and Driver Mode will reduce the potential for unsafe driver distraction by limiting the time a driver’s eyes are off the road, while at the same time preserving the full functionality of these devices when they are used at other times,” the NHTSA explains.

Additional Ways to Reduce Distracted Driving

The absolute best way to reduce your risk of crashing is keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and mind on the road.

If you need your phone to navigate, the NHTSA recommends inputting the directions before you start driving and pairing the phone with the car. Consider taking a pledge to commit to not use your phone while driving, such as It Can Wait or the Courage to Care pledge.

You can also try using some of the distracted driving apps available in the App Store and Google Play Store. Many of these apps have features such as blocking messages and calls, tracking your miles, sending notifications to parents, and offering rewards for driving safely.

Here are a few you might want to try:

  • Drive Beehive
  • Drive Alive
  • AT&T DriveMode
  • Wonder
  • LifeSaver

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For more interesting articles about safe driving and new technologies to reduce distracted driving, check out our blog.

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