Different locations have different rules when it comes to using mobile devices while driving. Despite facing fines reaching £1000 ($1238) and a possible driving ban, one in three UK motorists admit to using their smartphones while in control of a vehicle. With 17,500 people taken to court for the offense last year, the country is looking at ways of stopping the practice, including automatically disabling phones in moving cars.
The UK's Department for Transport (DfT) is planning exploratory meetings with network providers and handset manufacturers next year to discuss ways of tackling mobile use while driving. One potential solution is to introduce technology that blocks all phone calls, texts, and data while behind the wheel.
It seems there are two options on the table. The first, and most likely, is to compel manufacturers to build a 'driving mode' option into their handsets. The feature will operate much in the same way as airplane mode, the only difference being that drivers could make emergency calls and accept calls from certain designated persons. It would be up to the phone owner to activate driving mode before starting their journey.
The second idea involves using GPS technology to block smartphone signals once a certain speed is reached. One of the many problems with this solution is that it could also affect passengers in the vehicle and those using public transport.
Given how such features could negatively affect sales, many manufacturers are unlikely to include automatic blocking technology unless legally compelled to do so. It would no doubt cause problems with infotainment systems and hands-free kits, too, which a recent study claimed were just as distracting for drivers as mobiles.
Holding a mobile device while driving has been illegal in the UK for the last 13 years, but is still a contributing factor in around 20 road deaths each year. The number of people who admitted to using a handset behind the wheel has increased 23 percent in the last two years. The government is introducing harsher penalties, but they seem unlikely to discourage most drivers.
"We are determined to crack down on mobile phone use at the wheel. Our plans to double penalties for this serious crime should act as an incredibly strong deterrent. We will continue to explore what more can be done to tackle this crime," said a DfT spokesperson.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently published guidelines that call for the implementation of an automatic driver mode. Unlike the UK's proposed feature, this would only limit certain functions rather than almost entirely disabling a handset.