CTA Calls for Serious Review of NHTSA Distracted Driving Proposal

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 10.21.44 PMThe Consumer Technology Association wants the Trump administration to review proposed federal guidelines that encourage smartphone manufacturers and makers of other portable and aftermarket consumer electronics to design products that lessen the potential for driver distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued the guidelines in December.

“While NHTSA maintains that the proposed guidelines would be voluntary and non-binding, in practice they could have a sweeping effect on the multibillion-dollar market for mobile devices and apps,” writes CTA President/CEO Gary Shapiro in a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Office of Management and Budget Acting-Director Mark Sandy. NHTSA called for the development of a “driver mode” for smartphones and other portable devices drivers can use while operating their car.

Driver mode is more complex than airplane mode for smartphones; while airplane mode cuts off cell service, driver mode instructs each app to function in specific ways. The idea is to limit the cell phone’s functions while the vehicle is moving.  

Some mobile apps do this now. The driver downloads the app to his or her wireless phone and it limits texting and prohibits web browsing, for example.  

CTA believes the NHTSA proposal goes too far. “As the principal U.S. trade association representing the consumer technology industry, CTA shares NHTSA’s concerns about the hazards of distracted driving. However, we believe that the ‘Phase 2’ guidelines take the wrong approach to this important issue, both in substance and by impermissibly reaching beyond NHTSA’s statutory authority under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act,” states Shapiro.

More plainly, he told the Senate Commerce Committee in a recent hearing on reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens “NHTSA does not have the authority to dictate the design of smartphone apps and other devices used in cars – its legal jurisdiction begins and ends with motor vehicle equipment.” In fact, the proposal could “thwart” development of innovative safety solutions, Shapiro testified.

Noting that the White House called for a halt in all pending regulations to give the new administration time to review them, CTA says this situation fits that goal. CTA has supported industry initiatives to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, as well as legislative measures to ban texting while driving and place strict limits on the use of electronics by novice drivers.

February 14, 2017


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