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Will NHTSA be ‘smart’ about regulating Smartphones?

January 9, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

NHTSA administrator says agency can regulate drivers’ use of Smartphones to achieve goal of  eliminating hand-held cell phone use while driving

Smart phone regulation

Cell phones have caused hundreds of horrific car and truck accidents, including one case of mine where a truck driver dropped his phone, and as he was reaching down to pick it up, he collided at full speed into my client’s car.

Chris and one part of the car went in one direction.  His legs, and the other part of his car, went in another.  Miraculously, Chris survived, but this crash serves as a poignant example of how cell phones can cause otherwise completely preventable truck accidents.

It also begs the question: Knowing how cell phones contribute to driver distraction, how “smart” will the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) be in its regulation of drivers’ use of cell phones?

And will NHTSA go far enough to protect the public?

Only time will tell, but we know that the NHTSA is committing to Smartphone regulation in some form or fashion.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland recently took the bold and, apparently, first-of-its-kind step of telling the U.S. Congress that NHTSA has the authority under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act to regulate drivers’ use of Smartphones while they’re driving, according to a story by The Detroit News, “U.S. to set vehicle smartphone guidelines.”

Strickland said the NHTSA would issue Smartphone usage guidelines in 2014 as part of the agency’s long-term goal of encouraging the development of “technology that would allow vehicles to bar drivers from using a hand-held phone unless they are paired with the vehicle to make hands-free calls.”

The Detroit News reported the following distracted driving statistics from NHTSA for 2012:

  • The number of deaths from fatal distracted driving crashes decreased from 3,360 to 3,328.
  • The number of people injured in distracted driving crashes increased by 9% to 421,000.

Given the extent of the problem and the severity of the dangers it creates, how do you think NHTSA should use its power to regulate drivers’ Smartphone and cell phone use while driving?

Related information:

Does hands-free driving mean risk free?

Why is Michigan falling so far behind other states on penalties for texting while driving?

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