'Driver mode' could soon auto-disable your phone

Published 24 November 2016

The symbiosis between car and phone is rapidly increasing, but so too is the feeling that the fully featured smartphone is a dangerous distraction for drivers. For that reason, America’s road safety department is proposing that all phone makers develop proper ‘driver mode’ software to ensure the safety of road users.

Where America leads the UK tends to follow, and so the guidelines proposed by the US’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could well lead to a significant shift in mobile phone law.

Published yesterday, the voluntary guidelines aim to encourage both carmakers and mobile phone manufacturers to look at ways to decrease distraction, with solutions ranging from decent phone pairing functionality to software that will disable features like text messaging, email, internet and social media if the car is moving.

According to the NHTSA’s report, ten per cent of America’s 35,092 traffic fatalities in 2015 involved one or more distracted drivers, while the previous year saw 424,000 people injured in “distraction-affected” collisions.

“…the agency believes that an important way to help mitigate the real-world risk posed by driver distraction from portable devices is for these devices to have limited functionality and simplified interfaces when they are used by drivers while driving,” says the report.

Some Android smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy, already have a driver mode that can be switched on by the user, but the ubiquitous iPhone does not – although various apps are available that do the job.

Speaking to HonestJohn.co.uk, Neil Greig, Director of Policy & Research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, called for insurance companies to discourage distracted driving by raising premiums for those caught using a mobile phone. “These apps should be on every fleet managers Christmas shopping list. We would also add that every phone has a driver mode - we just need to raise awareness of it and incentivise its use. This could be done through company driving policies.

“IAM RoadSmart is also reducing discounts on insurance to those caught using mobile phones. When all insurance companies do this, drivers will have a real incentive to switch off or switch on the drive safe mode – we need to incentivise its use,” said Mr Greig. 


Idunnoatall    on 28 November 2016

Fine but will this apply to those with hands free set ups incorporated in the vehicle itself and its connected via bluetooth or USB? I use the mobile while driving and only using hands free. It's used solely as a phone and in those circumstances its no different to talking to a passenger in the vehicle. Is there going to be a law making conversation within the car banning all conversations?

Caution    on 28 November 2016

Actually, I think that research shows that even talking on a hands-free 'phone is far more distracting than conversing with a passenger, as we are unable to pick up visual and subtle audible cues from the person we are conversing to. I'm all in favour of locking phones save for when the ignition is switched off, save for simple voice comms and emergency use - certainly no texting nor internet seaching.

angelcyn    on 28 November 2016

The hands free choice has been proved to be as unsafe as the hand held model and yes it should apply to those as well, and while we are at it text and social media messages on infotainment systems should be blocked as well.
How anyone can believe having a virtual tv screen in action below dash level and believe it is even vaguely safe is living in fantasy land.

rickenbacker_al    on 28 November 2016

Interesting idea which I'm all for in principle, but how do they plan on making this work in practice?

For every bit of software which disables mobile phone functions while driving, some Clever Dick will design a corresponding bit of software to disable the 'disabling' software, so that those who wish to pay more attention to texting and surfing than they do to driving can continue to behave irresponsibly.

bakeart    on 28 November 2016

I'm not convinced hands free is not distracting, so I support this. the number of drivers I have seen using their phones, including HGVs, suggests that there is widespread contempt for the current laws,

Howard the Careful Driver    on 29 November 2016

All phone conversations interfere with concentration, so ideally should be banned. However, I feel 'brief' handsfree conversations are low risk when used responsibly (accident, breakdown, dangerous road, directions, late for appointment etc). However, all interactive media should be banned. The partial disabling apps should be compulsory.

Fijit    on 29 November 2016

Another problem is the communication devices in parcel delivery vehicles. They receive messages querying deliveries and collections notifying the driver by a ring and the screen lighting up . This is a high pressure working environment and the temptation to look at the screen when a message comes in is considerable. Maybe these devices should be located away from the drivers cab?

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