Smartphone Apps Help Drivers Stay Focused
Distracted driving is a major hazard on the road. In 2012, more than 421,000 people were hurt in traffic collisions caused by drivers who were distracted – often by the use of mobile technology. In response, a number of companies are offering apps that limit the ability of drivers to use their smartphones behind the wheel.
A Kentucky company, for example, has created a mobile app called TextLimit, which is designed to save lives by stopping drivers from texting, emailing, web browsing, playing games and performing other cellphone tasks. TextLimit works by limiting or shutting down certain cellphone functions while the device is in motion.
TextLimit costs about $25 a year. The service disables various cellphone capabilities in a vehicle traveling at a speed that the user determines in advance. The user can select when and how to shut down text messaging, email, and other functions.
Federal transportation officials say that text messaging is the most dangerous type of distraction for drivers because it requires them to take their hands, eyes and mind off the road. But even though 98% of adult drivers know that texting while driving presents a serious hazard, many text and drive anyway.
The texting-and-driving problem is relatively recent as smartphones have become increasingly available. Of adult drivers who admit to texting behind the wheel, 60% said they started doing it within the past three years.
According to the National Institutes of Health, text messaging has been a factor in a rising number of distracted driving accidents. The agency published a report in 2010 noting that fatalities from distracted driving had been declining until 2005, when text messaging began escalating. Since then, 43 states have adopted laws against texting while driving.
Oklahoma, however, prohibits only drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses from texting. In Oklahoma, too many people are injured or killed in distracted driving accidents that could have been prevented if drivers had put down their mobile devices.
According to recent data analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cellphone use is most prevalent among drivers between the ages of 16 and 24, with female drivers using phones at a higher rate than male drivers.
Parents of young drivers can use TextLimit and similar apps to help keep them and others on the road safe. In fact, any driver can take advantage of apps that disable text and email functions when a vehicle reaches a certain speed.
The federal government acknowledges that even talking on a handheld phone can be dangerously distracting for drivers. Commercial truckers and bus drivers are prohibited from using hand-held cellphones to text or talk while driving.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says many other activities also can be dangerously distracting. They include:
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Grooming activities like applying makeup
- Reading maps
- Using an onboard navigation system
- Watching videos on a smartphone or onboard video screen
- Adjusting a radio
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