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Should your smartphone refuse to work while you're driving?

We wrote recently about the recent spike in traffic deaths in the U.S., which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has blamed in part on increased app use. Now federal officials are asking smartphone manufacturers to do their part to prevent people from using their devices while driving.

The NHTSA put out recommendations in November asked smartphone companies to design products to prevent users from doing things like watching videos or texting while driving. 

But smartphone makers don't seem pleased with the recommendations. They're saying the NHTSA is reaching too far out of its jurisdiction by proposing these guidelines to electronics manufacturers, according to the Seattle Times.

In the past, the NHTSA has overseen car manufacturers, not electronics companies. But the lines between the two industries are blurring, especially with the advent of driverless cars.

And indeed, driverless cars may eventually help cut down on distracted driving, letting technology handle the road while freeing passengers to text, watch videos or Snapchat.

But in the meantime, what should smartphone device manufacturers do? Should there be a "drive mode," similar to "airplane mode" that restricts the things your phone can do?

Well, not surprisingly, there are already apps for that. A Drivemode app introduced in 2014 for Android phones allows drivers to use various phone functions more easily without looking at their phones. And AT&T has its own DriveMode app that automatically silences a driver's text messages.

What the NHTSA is proposing would go a step further. They're not asking tech companies to make apps that users can choose to use but to change how the entire phone operates while a car is in motion.

According to the Seattle Times, car manufacturers were more positive about the guidelines, and some safety advocates even said they didn't go far enough.

For one thing, the guidelines - like the Drivemode app - wouldn't prevent people from using phones while driving. Just because a phone is in drive mode doesn't mean it's safe to use the available functions. The only truly safe drive mode would probably prevent a phone from working at all while driving - but that would probably be an even tougher sell for device manufacturers.

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