Road safety experts have called for smartphones to be fitted with a “drive-safe” mode – similar to the flight-safe option – to help stop drivers being “distracted or overwhelmed with information” at the wheel.
The RAC Foundation claims that every year there are around 70 fatal accidents on Britain’s roads caused by motorists being distracted, while “driving using mobile phone” is cited in around 20 crashes.
The motoring charity’s director Steve Gooding said: “In many ways smartphone technology and mobile communications are a godsend for road users, allowing us to do everything from getting directions to dodging congestion to calling for help if we break down.
“Yet the more functionality our cars and electronic devices have, the greater the chance that drivers get distracted or overwhelmed with information, particularly when using smartphones as satnavs while all the other functions are still ‘live’.
“There may come a day when autonomous cars allow us to spend all our time looking at our mobile, tablet and computer screens. Until then as drivers we need to make sure we have our eyes on the road.”
“A key question is where responsibility lies. Many in the industry say the onus must be on the user rather than the manufacturer.”
In the UK using a hand-held phone while driving carries a penalty of three points on the motorist’s licence and a fine of £100.
Industry leaders in vehicle and phone manufacturing were interviewed by transport think-tank TRL to find out what was being done to limit distractions in car production, as there are no internationally accepted guidelines.
They found distraction was not considered a top priority in the design phase, and that it was deemed to be the driver’s responsibility to make sure their phone use complied with the law.
Without a legal requirement, few companies would impose limitations themselves because it would be a commercial handicap, the study said.