[11/23/16]  A federal safety agency is urging cell phone and electronic device makers to design products to minimize the potential for driver distraction.

In new voluntary guidelines released Wednesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) called for the creation of a “driver mode” for smart phones and other portable devices that are used while driving.

The goal is to curb road deaths and injuries resulting from smartphone-based distractions, such as texting, phone calls and social media.

Regulators point to the historic spike in traffic fatalities last year, when 35,092 people died on U.S. roads. The NHTSA estimates that 10 percent of those deadly crashes involved at least one distracted driver.

“As millions of Americans take to the roads for Thanksgiving gatherings, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cell phones,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “These commonsense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road.”

The NHTSA is proposing a driver mode that would disable most of a mobile phone’s functions while driving, with the exception of navigation and music apps.

The guidelines also encourage manufacturers to implement features such as pairing, where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system. The NHTSA says the feature helps limit the amount of time that a driver’s eyes are off the road.


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