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Airplane mode for the road? U.K. politicians push phone makers for a driving mode

uk drive safe mode phones young adults texting on their smartphones and driving
antoniodiaz / 123RF Stock Photo
Following a recent high-profile case where a woman and three children were killed by a distracted truck driver, British politicians have been increasing pressure on smartphone manufacturers to reduce distractions for users while driving. An informal meeting is said to be scheduled for the new year, which will see major mobile manufacturers meeting with ministers to discuss the matter.

For some time now, the U.K. has had fixed penalties in place for those caught using their phone while driving, with the practice adding points to their license which ultimately can lead to revocation. Starting in spring 2017, the fine will double to 200 British pounds (about $250) and the points will double, too, meaning just two instances could see the offender banned from driving.

But politicians also want phone manufacturers to play a part in reducing the incidents of driver distraction while driving. They believe that with the increased smartphone usage among the populace, and the rise in app notifications, there are more distractions for drivers than ever before.

It seems likely that ministers will be looking to the manufacturers for the eventual solution to their concerns, and suggestions so far have been for a “safe drive mode,” whereby notifications are disabled or muted during transit.

This campaign has also seen support from institutions like the RAC Foundation. The motoring charity has pointed out that with the existence of an airplane mode on contemporary handsets, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to implement a drive mode also, which users could activate themselves to limit the device’s functionality while in transit.

While its statement initially suggests that drivers should remain responsible for remaining distraction-free behind the wheel, The Guardian reports that the Foundation claims industry has an obligation to aid consumers in that goal. It goes so far as to suggest that should manufacturers not respond favorably to politician requests, some sort of legislative intervention should be taken. This is of course a private, charitable organization though, and it has little influence over legislation.

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