Should phone apps be regulated like text messaging for drivers?

This is your brain on mobile. Jeremy Vendehey / Medium
You can’t drive and text in Minnesota. But what about other cell phone distractions like using your navigation app or other apps that require you to provide information, or look at the screen?

“It’s a murky gray area, to say the least,” writes Fast Company’s Chris Gayomali.

“Driver safety advocates have been calling for more clarity from federal regulators. That’s why, tucked into the Obama administration’s new transportation bill proposal, is a provision which would allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set restrictions on app usage in cars, and possibly order changes if something like a mapping app is found to be dangerous,” Gayomali adds.

The Transportation Department released voluntary guidelines for carmakers last year. The guidelines stipulate “that any navigation system should not take more than two seconds for a single interaction, and 12 seconds total,” reports the New York Times. “At 60 miles an hour, two seconds is 176 feet.”

Today’s Question: Should phone apps be regulated like text messaging for drivers?

  • tlvdp

    Murky area, my butt. I’ve been in way too many traffic close calls in the past few years caused by driver distractin to buy anything short of 100% of drivers’ attention on driving. If you need to play with your devices, pull over. Period.

  • Sue de Nim

    It would be great if they could figure out a way to adjust the regulation of such things based on traffic conditions. On metro area freeways, it can be dangerous even to change the radio station. On the long, boring, arrow-straight highways in rural Minnesota, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel rises sharply if one has too few distractions.

  • Yanotha Twangai

    Of course, the real solution the problem of driver inattention is self-driving cars. I wonder how long it will be before we’re debating whether humans should be allowed to drive at all.

  • bob hicks

    If our legislators had any moral courage, they’d put a complete ban on the use of cell phones while driving. They’d have to have even more moral courage to make it really effective, such as imposing mega-harsh fines. So instead, we’ll have ever more yappers, texters, appers and lots more crashes, cripplings and deaths. Ah, American exceptionalism at its finest!

  • Ralphy

    I understand it is against the law to have a video device in operation in view of the driver. You can also get a ticket for driving while distracted. Wouldn’t that make using a cell phone app or talking on one worth a ticket?

  • Jim G

    Drivers and our lazy driving habits need regulation. It’s time to set a high expectation for driver alertness and attentiveness. Whether you are talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, programming a navigation system, eating, drinking, putting on your make-up, reading a map, reading the newspaper (Yes, I’ve seen it.), under the influence or just plain lost and befuddled, if you cause an accident, you should be held at fault. If you kill someone, you need go to prison, for a long time. When driving, drive. Pretend it’s your first time.

    • Jamie

      I’ve also experienced a four-lane highway driver reading the newspaper. I followed him for a few miles and honked each time he came close to the guy’s bumper next to him – ridiculous!!

      Can’t prohibition of all these things be accomplished with one law regarding distracted driving, and don’t we already have that law? Maybe it just needs a little more aggressive enforcement when you actually cause an ‘accident.’

  • PaulJ

    Were there laws for paper maps? There should be laws requiring people to re-learn how to drive about every five years (including that you have to watch where you’re going)

    • Ralphy

      I think if you are looking at a map while driving you can get a ticket for distracted driving in MN. I know you can on the west coast.

      • Gary F

        So you mean a law already exists for this problem?

  • Man

    I thought distracted driving already was illegal, regardless of the reason. Why do we need a new law?

    • Gary F

      Because Utopians think they can make laws that will bring us a risk free world.

      All we need is just one more law.

      • JQP

        both sides do it and with the regularity of a pneumatic drill. Unless you’re ridding side-saddle… you got a foot on both sides.

        it would be interesting if there was some restriction on the number of laws… so that creating a new one also meant destroying an old one. I have no idea what that number would be … but there are idiotically duplicitous laws, senseless old technology/society laws and other excessive legal baggage that could be shelved in favor of a more streamlined legal code… Tax code could use it as well. but … in a country as universally ( top to bottom, left to right, front to back) polarized and argumentative … you’d be lucky to have someone agree to meet .. let alone do anything productive about it.

  • JQP

    the items have acceleromters and GPS so they know when they are in a moving state.

    Question is how do they know that the device is being used by a passenger or the driver ?

    there in lies the rub.