PhotoYour smartphone has an airplane mode, and if federal regulators have their way, it may soon have a driving mode. 

"As millions of Americans take to the roads for Thanksgiving gatherings, far too many are put at risk by drivers who are distracted by their cellphones," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx as he released proposed guidelines to reduce potential driver distraction caused by electronic devices. 

Foxx and other federal and state officials have been scrambling to address a startling increase in traffic deaths, which rose 10.4% in the first half of this year, a sharp increase on top of a last year's big increase, which was the largest since 1966 and seemed to take safety experts largely by surprise.

More than 17,700 people died in traffic accidents in the first half of this year, far outpacing the 3.3% increase in miles traveled. Driver distraction is thought to be a major factor, thus driving Foxx's effort to find ways to get drivers' eyes back on the road.

"These commonsense guidelines, grounded in the best research available, will help designers of mobile devices build products that cut down on distraction on the road," Foxx said. His department earlier released proposed voluntary guidelines for electronic systems built into cars by manufacturers.

Driver mode

The guidelines call for such things as a driver mode that would use a simplified display designed to reduce potential distraction by limiting the amount of time the driver's eyes are off the road.

They also call for "pairing," using the car's infotainment system to make it easier to use portable devices. 

"NHTSA has long encouraged drivers to put down their phones and other devices, and just drive," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration director Dr. Mark Rosekind. "With driver distraction one of the factors behind the rise of traffic fatalities, we are committed to working with the industry to ensure that mobile devices are designed to keep drivers’ eyes where they belong — on the road."

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