Should Your Car Disable Your Phone?


Like many other Americans yesterday, my family spent a good portion of time in the car traveling between family gatherings. Our travels were uneventful, aside from the occasional debate about what song to play. (One kid wanted Charlie Puth while another voted for Nirvana and yet another was set on Tribe Society. Thank goodness for affordable iPods.)

As the driver, I naturally kept my hands off my phone. From the high throne of my Land Cruiser, though, I could see neighboring drivers with faces buried in the soft glow of their smartphones.

Distracted driving is a major problem, and now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hopes to take another step to do something about it.

The NHTSA has released voluntary guidelines to shut down apps on phones while a person is sitting behind the steering wheel.

The technology is new, and not without problems, but the regulator said,

NHTSA has learned that technologies to detect whether a driver or passenger is using a device have been developed but are currently being refined such that they can reliably detect whether the device user is the driver or a passenger and are not overly annoying and impractical.

Distracted driving deaths continue to rise in this country and, from my own informal count yesterday, a good 1 in 3 drivers uses his or her phone while driving.

That’s scary stuff, and the idea of disabling app use, including text messages, while behind the wheel is becoming more and more appealing.

It’s simple enough for a vehicle’s infotainment system to shut down apps on a paired device when in motion, but it’s not currently possible to do the same on an unconnected phone. Plus, having the car know when a phone is being held by a driver, rather than in possession of a passenger, is technology that still needs to be refined.

For now, that means a driver would either need to connect his or her phone to the infotainment system or manually activate a Driver Mode before hitting the road.

This technology is in its infancy, and the NHTSA’s guidelines are strictly voluntary, but they could be a foreshadow of what’s to come.

Would you be willing to have your phone disabled while driving?


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