Report: U.S. DOT fights driver distraction with proposed guidelines

The U.S. DOT has proposed guidelines for mobile device manufacturers to help reduce distracted driving by keeping people’s attention on their primary task.

While cellphones have made life more convenient for people in New York and elsewhere, use of these types of mobile devices distracts drivers' attention from the safe operation of their vehicles, often leading to auto accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving collisions caused 431,000 injuries and 3,179 deaths in 2014. To reduce the potential for cellphone-related driver distractions, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently proposed guidelines for electronic device developers.

Diverting drivers' attention

Drivers should focus on the safe and legal operation of their vehicles. Thus, activities that draw their focus away from the primary task of driving, require them to take their hands off the wheel, or take their eyes off the road may be considered distractions. As a result of such distracting behaviors, motorists may not notice changes in the traffic conditions or hazards. Consequently, they may not have time to adjust appropriately and avoid crashing.

While driving, people may use their cellphones for a multitude of purposes. This includes playing music, getting directions, checking emails, texting and making phone calls. These and other tasks drivers perform on their cellphones may take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the task of driving. Texting while driving is considered particularly dangerous for drivers because it is visually, manually and cognitively distracting.

Risk factors

In general, anyone who uses their cellphones while they are operating a motor vehicle may be at risk for distracted driving. Though, the risk may be more significant for some groups than it is for others. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 38 percent of the people who were on their cellphones during fatal collisions were between 20 and 29-years-old.

Proposed guidelines

Recently, the U.S. DOT suggested guidelines aimed at addressing the problem of distracted driving. The proposal recommends that electronic device manufacturers include pairing and driver mode features in their portable and aftermarket products. Through pairing, motorists would be able to access their phone's functions verbally or using the vehicle's infotainment systems. Driver modes would offer a simplified user interface, allowing drivers to perform basic functions more efficiently.

The hope is that such options would limit the distraction cellphones cause to drivers, while still allowing them to access their cellphones' full functionality. It is believed the implementation of such distraction-reducing features would help decrease the number of distracted driving accidents, and the resulting serious injuries and deaths.

Seeking legal counsel

As a result of distracted driving accidents, people in New York and elsewhere may suffer broken bones and other serious injuries. Consequently, they may face unexpected medical bills for the treatment they required and lost wages while they are off work recovering. Depending on the situation, the distracted driver may be held liable for such damages. Thus, those who have been injured in such collisions may benefit from speaking with an attorney. A legal representative may explain their rights and help them understand their options for pursuing financial compensation.