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NHTSA proposes cellphone distracted driving rules

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has asked cellphone companies to develop features that could reduce the growing number of distracted driving accidents in California and around the country. The request was contained in a set of guidelines proposed by the federal safety agency that aim to curb the growing use of mobile electronic devices by drivers. The public has until Feb. 3 to submit comments and suggestions about the proposals.

The NHTSA wants companies like Motorola and Apple to incorporate a driver mode into their cellphones that would prevent text messages being read or typed, videos being played and images being displayed. Navigation and map functions would be unaffected. The agency would also like these companies to produce devices that can be paired with vehicles. The screens of paired phones would only be able to display emergency notifications under the NHTSA proposal.

The agency concedes that these features would have to be activated by drivers as technology that would make them work automatically does not yet exist, but it is hopeful that electronics companies will be happy to do their part to curb distracted driving. If the guidelines are adopted and prove successful, many lives could be saved. NHTSA data reveals that about 10 percent of traffic accident fatalities in the United States are caused by distracted car or truck drivers.

Establishing negligence in car accident lawsuits can sometimes be challenging for attorneys when distracted driving is suspected. Intoxicated drivers are rarely able to hide their impairment from law enforcement, but distracted drivers may blame their crashes on drowsiness or mechanical failure. In these situations, attorneys may scrutinize the data stored on a cellphone to find out if a call was being made, a text message was being sent or received or a video was being watched at the time of a crash.

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