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Can a cell phone app prevent distracted driving?

It sounds good at first, but looking deeper, does it make sense?

In case you haven’t noticed, the new hot topic surrounding distracted driving are the apps that will now safe us from this scourge. Not, this is not an April fools gag story. One company, TextLimit of Louisville, KY, thinks its app will prevent distracted driving among teens and those that drive for businesses.

How many accidents and roadway deaths are caused by distracted driving involving cell phones is tricky to say. NHTSA says that about 3,300 roadway deaths, or about 10% of all deaths involving vehicles, are related to distracted driving. However, distracted driving due to cell phone use is just a subset of that broader category. Regardless of the actual number, anyone who drives knows that seeing a car coming at you across the centerline with a wingnut looking down instead of forward is definitely becoming more common.

TextLimit says that its app will bar a cell phone from working as a text device, browser, or phone while it is moving. The company says it uses GPS data from the cell phone to know when the person using it is in a moving car. Company President David Meers said of the app, "TextLimit works with a smartphone's global positioning software to determine the speed of the user's vehicle. When a vehicle reaches a pre-selected speed limit the smartphone's touch-screen is inhibited -- deactivating texting and most calling functions; therefore reducing the likelihood of distracted driving-related crashes." Let’s stop right there. My 11 year old knows how to disable the GPS function on his iPhone. Why wouldn’t a teen simply over-ride the app? In fact, I have my phone and other devices set to “GPS off” by default. Maybe they have thought of that.

Bill Bell, Treasurer of the National Governors Highway Safety Association offered his approval of the app after testing, saying "Kentucky has tested TextLimit extensively and concluded it is effective and reliable." He adds, "I am convinced TextLimit will help reduce the escalating incidents of distracted driving deaths and collisions in Kentucky and the U.S." Coincidentally, Kentucky qualified for a federal program that pays for apps like this.

There are other solutions to this problem that make it harder for teens or paid drivers to ignore the app. Trigger made by Cell Control, is a device that plugs into the cars OBDII port. Once installed it prevents cell phones from working in the car, but still allows them to al 911, or a preset emergency number.

Cell phone use by teens while driving is already illegal in the state I live in, and many others. Similarly, texting while driving is illegal for all drivers. Yet, based on the amount of media coverage the topic receives, it seems the scourge continues. Maybe the devices themselves will save us, but we remain cautiously pessimistic.

Related Stories:
New device will end distracted driving due to cell phones and texting
Teens are learning distracted driving habits from their parents
Cell phone use correlates directly with decreased vehicle accident deaths

Still image and video courtesy of TextLimit, David Meers, and Youtube,.com


David Meers (not verified)    April 2, 2014 - 2:54PM

John, we did think of the user turning off the GPS or location services (or not logging into the app at all) by creating an Alert message that is sent to the Administrator. We have always said that our app does not take the place of parenting...and, at $24.99 per year per phone, it probably shouldn't. However, we have created the most feature-rich, robust tool in the market to stop distracted driving. If people are going to try as hard as they might to break the law, then they will find a way. However, if it is an outstanding tool you want to help stop the habit of texting and driving, then Textlimit is the right tool for you. Thank you for the interest in the app.

John Goreham    April 2, 2014 - 5:39PM

Thank you for reading and commenting. We appreciate it very much. I have a son coming close to driving age and I will be adding your app and checking those alerts closely! The charge seems very reasonable given what I am paying for my kids' X-Box downloads. Cheers,