New App Stops Texting While Driving - UOK With That?

The new AT&T Smartphone offers an app that when engaged, turns off the ability to text. Will hard-core texters ignore it?


Imagine an app for your Smartphone that would not allow you to text while driving. Would you use it? Would you insist your kids use it?

According to one survey, 97 percent of teens say texting while driving is dangerous — but 43 percent admit to doing so. A Virginia research group says those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.

Seventy-five percent of teens say texting and driving is "common" among their friends.

The National Safety Council estimates at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes - or at least 1.6 million crashes each year - are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting.

Friday, AT&T began offering its new Discover Smartphone with DriveMode, an app that "when enabled and the vehicle is moving 25 mph, automatically sends a customizable auto-reply message to incoming texts, letting your friends know you're behind the wheel and will reply when it's safe."

Says AT&T: "Our simple message is vital: when it comes to texting and driving, it can wait."

According to the AT&T site,

  • Once downloaded and set-up, the app will turn on automatically once your vehicle starts moving 25 miles per hour. Then, anyone who tries to text or email will receive an auto-reply message telling them you’re currently driving and will get back to them soon.
  • When the app is turned on, all calls will automatically be sent to voicemail; however, the user can identify five numbers that can always get through, and 911 calls are always allowed.
  • When setting up the app, the user has the option to select one navigation and one music app that can be accessed while DriveMode is turned on.
  • While enabled, depending on your device, the app also stops incoming sounds for texts, emails and voice calls – so you’re less tempted to grab your phone.
  • The app automatically turns off once the vehicle is going less than 25 miles per hour for five minutes and then the user can view the calls, messages and e-mails as they normally would.

Question is, will people use it? Will people turn on the app, and drive more safely? Or is the addiction to texting while in the car so strong - especially for teens - that smartphone users will never enable the application?

Tell us in your comments. Then vote in our poll.

Anita Reimann January 12, 2013 at 11:16 PM
Is there a way to shut it off if, for instance, you want your passenger to answer the phone for you? Or if you are the passenger, is there a way to override it? (Or for that matter, if you are on BART or something going over 25 mph... can you override it)?
Erik Wood January 13, 2013 at 01:53 AM
The CDC just reported that 60% of older teens routinely Text and Drive. I think its starting to become clear that legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I also read that over 3/4 of teens text daily - many text more than 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook - even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes. I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user, I built a texting asset called OTTER that is a simple and intuitive GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. While driving, OTTER silences those distracting call ringtones and chimes unless a bluetooth is enabled. The texting auto reply allows anyone to schedule a ‘texting blackout period’ in any situation like a meeting or a lecture without feeling disconnected. This software is a social messaging tool for the end user that also empowers this same individual to be a sustainably safer driver. Erik Wood, owner OTTER app (Free, Any Android carrier, Since 2010) do one thing well... be great.
Bob M January 13, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Having worked in the design segment of cell phone business, I can say this whole problem of talking and texting while driving can be fixed simply. In order for a cell phone to establish and stay connected to a tower at any speed above walking speed, it has to implement mathematical algorithms to counter the doppler shift on the signal caused by a moving phone. Disable, or limit these algorithms to no more than 15-20mph, and cell phones will not be connected in moving cars while allowing use on most public transit (other than the driver of course). It may be a slight inconvenience to passengers but maybe worth the up side of distracted drivers. Of course the industry does not want to be the bad guy in this and will only do it under pressure.
Erik Wood January 13, 2013 at 06:06 PM
@ Bob M - I completely understand that approach but the public does not see it that way. After three years of fighting for Text and Drive legislation there are still 11 states without laws on the books. Why? People consider their smartphone an equivalent to their homes... often times even more personal. Locking down personal property immediately changes this debate from an obvious public safety issue into one about civil liberties. This is misguided and it is not a partisan issue. What republican father wants his teen to be safer than a democrat mother? Civil liberties debates have seen users buy second personal smartphones when, say, their employer uses the kind of expensive software you are referring to. This is an opportunity missed to create a sustainable safer driver. The evolution of Text and Drive legislation needs to be accompanied by a cultural evolution that technology helps facilitate. Using technology to keep a driver connected to their social network while keeping their eyes on the road is something that is available right now. It allows the end user to make safe (and efficient) choices about when to use messaging whether that person is at home, work or driving 5000 pounds of glass and steel next to us on the highway. Since OTTER LLC was formed in 2010, we have been working on products that use GPS and messaging to do just that. Erik Wood, owner OTTER app do one thing well... be great.
Ana Lucia Novak January 13, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Just unfortunate that there is no app for the iPhone


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