Sep 13

Texting While Driving - Keep your eyes on the Raod

Imagine this scenario. You’re driving home from a long day at work and you seem to be “stuck“ behind a driver who is very distracted from the road and the responsibility of driving her vehicle. We have all been there, and most of us can probably be considered offenders as well. Distracted driving refers to anything that takes your eyes or mental focus off of the road. It can be reaching for something on another seat, applying makeup, or even working your cars controls. The use of cell phones while driving has become a particular concern in recent years. This problem is particularly pronounced among young drivers.

In a recent Consumer Reports Survey, 63 percent of respondents under 30 years of age reported using a hand held phone while driving in the last 30 days; almost 1 in 3 texted. Alternately, of responders 30 and older, 41 percent used a cell phone while 9 percent sent text messages while driving in the last 30 days.

We all know of someone or have heard of someone who was severely injured or even died as result of a crash caused by a driver distracted by a cell phone and it has to stop. In the same Consumer Reports survey young drivers were asked what if anything made them reduce or even stop these behaviors. The most popular answers include, “I’ve read or heard about the dangers of distracted driving.” and “Laws that ban using a handheld cell phone and/or texting while driving”. While education is key, as proven time and time again, what else can be done? Carriers and application developers have answered the call to join the fight against distracted driving.


Hands-free aids/non-carrier blocker apps

DriveSafe.ly Pro

($4/month or $14/year)

This smart-phone app reads text messages and e-mail aloud and allows drivers to speak responses or verbally compose new messages. We found that the voice recognition didn’t always work or it required commands to be repeated. A free version can read messages up to 25 words. For BlackBerry and Android phones.

BlueAnt S4

($100)

The S4 connects to a phone with Bluetooth and, in addition to the core functions, allows Bing 411 access for weather, traffic, and other travel information. We found that the S4 worked well for incoming messages and replies, but initiating calls was more challenging. Not all smart phones have voice-command features or allow the S4 access to them. And using voice commands often resulted in the S4 dialing a wrong number. Functions beyond hands-free voice calls require a compatible app.

Motorola Roadster

($100)

This is similar in size and function to the BlueAnt S4. It also works better for incoming calls than for outgoing ones, and it has similar compatibility and voice-recognition issues. Its messaging app works with Android phones.

tXtBlocker

($7/month or $70/year)

The tXtBlocker is the most effective anti-texting product we’ve tried. In addition to disabling the phone, it allows parents to set limits on where and when messages can be sent or received and allows the phone’s location to be tracked on a website. It also allows calls to 911 and selected contacts. For Android and BlackBerry phones.

TeenSafer

($3/month or $25/year)

This product is cheaper but lacks some of tXtBlocker’s features, such as tracking and zone-based blocking. And because TeenSafer requires a Bluetooth connection to automatically activate, it can be circumvented if the user doesn’t connect it. For BlackBerry phones.

Carrier Apps

Sprint Drive First

($2/month)

Sprint is the latest cell-phone carrier to announce a new app that disables smart phone functions while driving. This app locks the phone when the car is moving over 10 mph and is being marketed to parents of teenagers. Calls automatically go to voicemail and emails and texts are silenced with an auto response to the sender. For Android phones, BlackBerry availability coming soon.

Sprint Drive First
($2/month)

Sprint is the latest cell-phone carrier to announce a new app that disables smart phone functions while driving. This app locks the phone when the car is moving over 10 mph and is being marketed to parents of teenagers. Calls automatically go to voicemail and emails and texts are silenced with an auto response to the sender. For Android phones, BlackBerry availability coming soon.

AT&T DriveMode

(FREE!)

Helps “curb the urge to text and drive” AT&T says, by automatically sending a reply to incoming texts messages, letting the sender know that you are driving and can’t respond. DriveMode also lets you set up auto-replies to emails and phone calls as well. You can also tweak the app to have some features running while the app is on: There’s an “Allow List” that lets users choose up to five contact phone numbers to reach help or family members. And 911 itself is an “automatically approved number” and can be easily dialed from the home screen. For BlackBerry phones.

T-Mobile’s DriveSmart Plus

($4.99/month)

This app senses when you’re driving, usually by GPS measuring your speed, and disable most or all of your phone’s functionality once a pre-determined speed is reached. For Android phones.



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