The Nanny States of America want to help you stay focused while driving. Those pesky navigation apps, with their accurate and easy to update maps, voice control and voice guided abilities are just too distracting for drivers. 

The Grow America Act would give the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the the ability to regulate how you interact with car navigation devices and apps, according to Reason

As highlighted in a recent feature by CNN Money, the DOT had this to say:

“Safety is our top priority,” the Department of Transportation said in a statement. “We’re working to address all forms of distraction to reduce the amount of deaths and ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”

While I hope other drivers minimize distraction in the car, I don’t foresee regulating driving distractions working. Although what exactly will be regulated (and how) isn’t apparent at the moment, the idea that the government can reduce car accidents by preventing driver distractions seems implausible, considering other things they’ve tried to regulate such as texting and driving laws,  security at airports, health care and now, potentially, salt. Making things even more wary, is that it was only about two years ago when Congress’ ignorance about the Internet and technology reared it’s ugly head with the Stop Online Piracy Act. And there is also the failure that was the Obamacare website. I just don’t have a lot of confidence in the government to involve itself with technology (not that it ever should). 

It would be great to hear responses from Apple and Google about this new development, but they are mum on the subject, according to the New York Times

The automobile industry is already on board—they have regulations in place, so they are used to it. And with that in mind, don’t look to the auto industry to back you up on why this is a terrible idea—because they aren’t your friend either. 

From the New York Times:

The measure has the support of automakers, which already mostly comply with voluntary guidelines for built-in navigation systems, but it has run into stiff opposition from technology companies, which say that any such law would be impractical and impossible to enforce. It’s another example, they say, of federal regulators trying vainly to keep up with a rapidly changing industry.

And from to the Daily Tech:

  Not surprisingly, automobile manufacturers are fully behind the government on this proposal, as many already voluntarily adhere to strict guidelines regarding distracted driving (this is why navigation-equipped vehicles pop up a warning screen when you start of the vehicle, or lock you out from entering in a new destination or changing a waypoint while the vehicle is in motion).

Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, added, “We believe that if you’re looking at a smaller screen, that’s less effective than looking at a larger screen on the dashboard.”

Auto manufacturers would also love to see the playing field leveled, as more and more drivers are forgoing navigation packages on vehicles — which can run into the thousands of dollars — in favor of their smartphones. And there’s also the fact that smartphone navigation apps and maps are updated much more frequently than in-car navigation systems (and who wants to pay $100 for a map update DVD) and provide a greater feature set than even the most advanced in-car systems can muster.

More regulation would definitely stifle technological innovation—and it’s no surprise that the auto industry is backing the government for less than pure reasons—to be more competitive. Innovations in technology are what’s needed to create safer driving. We are on our way there. Cell phone based technology is much less expensive than the fancy in-car systems or GPS devices in which automobile manufacturers have invested. If I’m driving, I don’t need to look away from the road to bring up Siri in order to shoot someone a quick text. There are also cars or devices for cars, which use bluetooth technology to allow people to make or answer hands-free phone calls. But if I am required to use an in-dash navigation system, the car company can charge me thousands extra for the “feature.”

I’ve used both Google Maps and Apple maps with the cellphone secure in a car mount. It is less distracting because it’s at eye level and I’m not having to hold my phone. I’m also less likely to look at my phone thanks to the turn-by-turn voice navigation. If I do, it’s to see how many miles I have to drive or to make sure I’m turning at the right time. But I don’t need an expensive, large screen to help with navigation. If messing with maps becomes too complicated, I simply pull over to get my bearings. It’s good to have that choice if it’s your thing—but ultimately, if I’m concerned about my safety and that of others, I’ll do what it takes to avoid distractions.

It’s also impossible to eliminate all distractions unless you have a law enforcement officer sitting in the passenger seat to make sure you’re not getting distracted. But seriously, what’s next? Regulating eating and drinking while driving?