Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous – perhaps moreso than driving under the influence according to some studies – yet it is a widespread habit that is socially acceptable, especially among younger crowds. Some states are finally beginning to outlaw the act, but as with the recent legislation mandating Bluetooth headsets, this will be difficult to enforce.
The solution may wind up coming not from the lawmakers, but from the phones themselves. Technology firm eLYK Innovation has created a $10 application called Textecution for Google’s Android mobile platform that will sit in the background and use the phone’s GPS system to detect whenever the phone is moving faster than 10 MPH, at which time the app will deactivate the phone’s SMS capabilities. Once the phone comes to a standstill (say, at a stop light) the driver will be allowed to text again within a few seconds.
The application has been designed primarily for adults looking to keep their teens (who are apparently most prone to the behavior) in check. When parents install Textecution on their child’s Android phone, they are asked for an ‘admin phone number’, which will be contacted if the child ever needs to temporarily deactivate the app (like if they’re on a train or in the passenger seat). To grant the exception, the parent simply sends an SMS message saying “Allow”.
Unfortunately while Textecution has admirable goals (namely, keeping everyone safer), it has some serious flaws. For one, children can easily remove the application without needing any administrator approval (though the developers are considering implementing tighter restrictions). The exception system is also far from perfect – any teenager who frequently rides trains or as a passenger in a car will be constantly assailing their parents with exception requests and will probably be more likely to simply disable to application than constantly check in for approval.
There are a few other methods being employed to address this issue. Key2SafeDriving makes a key fob that disables phone activity, which is another big-brotherish approach that most teens will just find a way to circumvent. In the long run, the solution will likely be something that offers the convenience of SMS without the constant need to read from a tiny screen – one contender is Yap, which allows drivers to translate their voice into SMS text messages without taking their eyes off the road.