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NHTSA asks for distracted driving cellphone features

A study released in 2013 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that in 2011, more than 600,000 drivers around the country were looking at their cellphone screens instead of watching the road at any given moment during daylight hours. The number of distracted drivers has likely since grown even higher, and the NHTSA has called on smartphone manufacturers to incorporate features that would severely restrict how Missouri motorists are able to use their products while behind the wheel.

The federal agency wants electronics companies like Samsung, Nokia and Apple to add a mode that would prevent phones from displaying text messages, images or videos to drivers. Navigation and mapping functionality would be unaffected when in driver mode under the NHTSA proposals. The second phase of NHTSA's distracted driving guidelines also ask cellphone makers to produce devices that can be paired with modern vehicles. The screens of paired phones would only be able to display emergency messages under the plan. The public has until Feb. 3 to submit comments about the proposed guidelines.

NHTSA understands that there is no current technology capable of activating these features automatically when cellphone owners get behind the wheel, but they are hoping that manufacturers will be eager to do what they can to curb an epidemic problem that claims the lives of thousands of road users each year. According to NHTSA figures, distraction is a factor in about 10 percent of the nation's car and semi accident fatalities each year.

The information stored on cellphones can be of great use to accident investigators and personal injury attorneys pursuing compensation on behalf of distracted driving victims. Call and data logs can often reveal whether or not an electronic device was being used in the seconds before a crash, and this information may be obtained from wireless service providers when cellphones have been destroyed or their stored information has been lost or deleted.

Source:, "NHTSA Survey Finds 660,000 Drivers Using Cell Phones or Manipulating Electronic Devices While Driving At Any Given Daylight Moment", NHTSA press release, April 5, 2013

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