Thursday, July 3, 2014

Can using navigational apps be as dangerous as texting and driving?

From:  CBS News

While millions of people use navigational apps on their phones, the Department of Transportation warns that using those behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as texting and driving, reports CBS News transportation correspondent Jeff Pegues.

Navigation technology has evolved rapidly with smartphone apps like Waze and Google Maps having up-to-date directions, information on traffic and even speed traps. However, there is a gray area for police and motorists.

"I was not using my phone, I was not texting," California resident Steve Spriggs said about the $165 ticket he received for distracted driving while using a navigation app on his cell phone.

He decided to fight it in court, and he won.

"The reality is that the law didn't cover that so they cited me for the wrong thing," Spriggs said. "Had I been driving dangerously they could have cited me for that. Had I been swerving across lanes, they could have cited me for that. I wasn't doing anything but holding a handheld electronic device."

Currently the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to issue voluntary guidelines for specific electronic devices including apps on smartphones.

Texting behind the wheel: New ad campaign targets distracted driving

In the president's new transportation bill, regulators want to strengthen their authority as technology continues to evolve by having a say in how it's used in vehicles. NHTSA said any new guidelines they are considering would be voluntary.

"Ultimately, they all try to be as safe as possible but there really are no regulations or no guidelines right now in use by the majority of these application developers," said Tim Stevens, editor at large at

Stevens said the tech industry is concerned regulations could stifle competition and innovation and that it would take a financial toll on app developers who don't have the resources to comply with new rules.

He said new technology like Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto, which syncs your phone's technology to your car, is the better option.

NHTSA is already working with the auto industry by encouraging car makers to sell vehicles will built-in dashboard navigation systems that would take less than two seconds for a single interaction while driving.

"They are incentivizing drivers to put their phones down versus the solutions that we are talking about here when it comes to legislation ... [which is] punishing people who do pick up their phone," Stevens said.

This debate will continue because the Department of Transportation has made reducing "distracted driving" a top priority. The DOT calls distracted driving a deadly epidemic with devastating consequences on the roads.