The recent proposal to allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to regulate the use of smartphone apps by drivers in moving vehicles is a step in the right direction.
The reasons that distracted driving behaviors are increasingly being regulated and often banned are twofold: First, more research is showing the severe danger associated with using phone apps of all kinds while driving; and second, more and more serious accidents are being caused by such behaviors.
While preset navigation apps are in themselves not dangerous, the misuse of them while driving is just as dangerous as more irresponsible behaviors like texting. The arguments presented against regulating these apps in the June 18 issue mostly ignore the main point: If you are fooling around with your phone while driving, you are a danger to yourself and everybody else on the road. Period. Just because such apps exist, it doesn’t make them safe or a good idea.
If you are lost, it will cost you no more time to pull over and get your bearings than if you spend time inputting directions into your phone, and it could cost you far more if you do not pull over. While it is probably too much to ask that people just figure out where they are going ahead of time, it does not seem too burdensome to expect that they should try to find their directions in a way that does not endanger other drivers.
We have made great strides in addressing the problem of texting and driving, but using your phone for other purposes while driving, even finding directions, can be just as dangerous.