Safety regulators want smartphone makers to develop a driving version of aeroplane mode

Federal regulators will recommend smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung implement a driving mode that prevents drivers from using certain features that could distract them behind the wheel, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The feature would be similar to aeroplane mode, which disables a handset’s wireless connectivity, and would restrict any content — like news, video or use of a touchscreen keyboard — that could potentially endanger drivers.

The recommendation is part of a set of safety guidelines the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to release Wednesday. The recommendations aim to slow down a spike traffic deaths that has occurred in the last two years.

Last year, the number of people killed in traffic accidents jumped by 7.1 per cent — the largest increase in traffic fatalities in the last 50 years, according to a New York Times report published last week.

That number climbed again in the first half of 2016 to 10.4 per cent, claiming 17,775, according to data collected by the NHTSA and cited.

As smartphones have added more features in the last several years, the potential for distraction has also increased, Anthony Foxx, secretary of the US Transportation Department, told The Times.

“Your smartphone becomes so many different things that it’s not just a communication device,” Foxx said.

The NHTSA has previously issued a similar set of guidelines that was implemented by automakers that prevents drivers from accessing certain navigation and entertainment features when vehicles are in motion.

Carmakers also offer a variety of hands-free features that don’t require a driver to directly interact with their phone — voice-activated text messaging. Apple has partnered with several car companies to integrate its CarPlay software that pairs a driver’s iPhone to the car’s infotainment system, allowing them to use features like Apple’s voice assistant, Siri.

Pokémon Go developer Niantic recently updated the game to prevent players from using the popular app while driving after a series of accidents were blamed on distracted drivers, The Times said.

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