Canadian Underwriter

U.S. Consumer Technology Association calls NHTSA’s guidelines on driver distraction from electronic devices “regulatory overreach”

November 29, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in the United States is calling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) proposed guidelines on driver distraction from electronic devices “disturbing” and “regulatory overreach.”

Using a smartphone to navigate the carLast Wednesday, the NHTSA released the second phase of voluntary guidelines to address driver distraction on U.S. roads. The proposed guidelines were designed to encourage portable and aftermarket electronic device developers to design products that, when used while driving, reduce the potential for driver distraction, NHTSA said in a press release last week. For example, the guidelines encourage manufacturers to implement features such as pairing – where a portable device is linked to a vehicle’s infotainment system – as well as “Driver Mode,” a simplified user interface.

“NHTSA’s approach to distracted driving is disturbing,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA, in a statement. “Rather than focus on devices which could reduce drunk driving, they have chosen to exceed their actual authority and regulate almost every portable device. This regulatory overreach could thwart the innovative solutions and technologies that help drivers make safer decisions from ever coming to market.”

Shapiro said that the “extreme Phase II guidelines to seek regulation via ‘voluntary’ standards” are misguided. Further, NHTSA doesn’t have the authority to dictate the design of smartphone apps and other devices in cars, Shapiro argued. “In this instance, NHTSA’s regulatory premise is dangerously expansive, representing the worst of government overreach,” he continued. “Under their vision, they would have the influence to control the design of technology products down to the fitness tracker worn on a driver. Such a vast and extreme expansion of NHTSA’s authority, if it were to happen, would have to be explicitly granted by Congress.”

Shapiro also noted that tech companies have created driver-assist technologies and apps that reduce or eliminate distractions such as drowsiness, in-car adjustments or texting while driving.

“We encourage NHTSA to rethink its approach on this issue, work with innovators to bring technology solutions to drivers and focus on areas within its jurisdiction – bringing self-driving vehicles to market and eliminating the majority of roadway deaths,” he said.

CTA supports “common sense” measures to address distracted driving, such as state legislation that bans texting while driving and places strict limits on the use of electronics by novice drivers. “More, we believe the shift in technology – including active collision avoidance and self-driving cars – is much more fruitful and important area for NHTSA focus,” Shapiro said.

NHTSA is seeking public comments on its proposed guidelines. Written comments can be submitted at