As if this wasn’t sobering enough, the NHTSA also determined that there were 17,775 highway fatalities during the first half of 2016, a 10.4 percent increase from the same timeframe last year. To put this in perspective, this is the equivalent of 100 people losing their lives in motor vehicle accidents every day.
While NHTSA officials have indicated that these staggering figures can be attributed to the reality that people are now driving more thanks to lower gas prices, higher employment rates and an improvement in economic conditions, they have also said that this is only part of the story.
Indeed, they are attributing much of the problem to the enduring and exceedingly reckless practice of distracted driving.
Interestingly enough, however, they have also indicated that distracted driving has evolved to a considerable degree over the years, such that it no longer encompasses just talking and texting while driving. Other distractions, they say, include social media, games and other seemingly irresistible apps.
In light of this reality, the NHTSA issued its first-ever voluntary recommendations expressly targeting the use of smartphones and other electronic devices by drivers earlier this week.
Specifically, these recommendations call on electronics manufacturers — including industry giants like Samsung and Apple — to develop technology capable of determining when a device is being used by a driver, rather than other vehicle occupants, and initiate a sort of “driver mode.”
This driver mode, in turn, would be limited in its functionality and feature simplified interfaces, such that scrolling text would be inaccessible, use of keypads prohibited, distracting video and graphics blocked, and access to social media restricted.
It remains to be seen, of course, how receptive electronic manufacturers will be to these guidelines …