New applications and tech products are hitting the market that prevent teens - as well as adults - from distracted driving, and are being designed to disable the texting function of a cellphone while a car is in motion.
Texting while driving has been identified in many high-profile studies as a leading cause of accidents and one that is equal in danger to driving while intoxicated. Increasingly, it is being outlawed by US states - 17 at last count, and the restriction is likely headed for federal adoption as well.
In response, the niche market of products designed to curb such behavior is flourishing. Not surprisingly, insurance companies, liability-averse employers and worried parents of teenagers are lining up to show their support.
Textecution is an app for Android-based smartphones developed by a father whose son was getting his driver's license for the first time. Once installed, Textecution enables a user to use a cellphone as normal. Using global positioning systems (GPS) - as many of the apps is this space do - Textecution is able to recognize when the phone is traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, and then disables the phone's texting function.
Insurance Companies Enter Fray
As insurance companies increasingly view texting as an issue in which they should be involved, they are exploring the use of services that collect driving data that would let policyholders get a discount for safe driving, or potentially lose coverage or pay higher rates if if caught texting and driving.
Key2SafeDriving, a car key that wirelessly disables cell phones via a Bluetooth or RFID connection while the car is turned on, also collects data on cellphone use while driving. This information can then be compiled into a "safety score" that could be sent to insurance companies, (via Risk Management).
Another device on the market is DriveAssist, engineered by Aegis Mobility. DriveAssist uses GPS to automatically detect when a cell phone user is driving. It then curbs access until the car has stopped. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has already signed a deal with Aegis, enabling policyholders to receive a discount if they subscribe to the service, which is expected to be on the market in early 2010.