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Transportation Department Wants to Regulate Map Apps in Cars

People are increasingly aware that distracted driving is dangerous driving.

We’ve recovered over $100,000 for clients who were injured when they were struck by drivers distracted by a fallen cell phone.  And those drivers weren’t even using their cell phones!

Unlike most other states, Arizona doesn’t expressly ban texting or using a hand-held phone while driving (except for school bus drivers).  However, the state does prohibit reckless driving — and cell phone use while driving is often reckless.

But what if you’re using your phone to do something people have been doing in cars since the invention of the Stanley Steamer – checking a map?

Many people use apps like Waze and Google Maps to find addresses and avoid traffic back-ups.  That’s exactly what those apps were designed for.

But, as reported in an article in the New York Times, those map apps fall into a grey area when it comes to laws regulating the use of phones while driving.

In California, a driver received a $165 ticket in 2012 for using his iPhone to check a map while driving.  He appealed, and his conviction was reversed.

The US Department of Transportation is seeking explicit authority from Congress to regulate navigation aids of all types – both those built into cars and those on smartphones.

The measure, which is included in the administration’s proposed transportation bill, would specify that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has the authority to restrict use of the apps and order changes if the apps are deemed by the NHTSA to be dangerous and cause distracted driving.

The NHTSA already regulates the mechanical features of cars, such as air bags.

Automakers support the measure, and mostly already comply with voluntary guidelines for built-in navigation systems.

The voluntary guidelines require that any installed navigation system should not take more than two seconds for a single interaction, and 12 seconds total.

A car traveling 60 miles per hour travels 176 feet in two seconds.

However, technology companies who make navigation apps have claimed that the proposed law would be impractical, and that the NHTSA “doesn’t have enough software engineers” to enforce it.

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