Texting (or calling) and driving is the new drinking and driving - only it's considerably more accessible to a wider demographic, and possibly even more dangerous.
This spells disaster for everyone, but what can anyone do? Sure, cops will snag a few texters here and there and slap their wrists with modest fines. But people just can't stop checking their emails and updating Facebook statuses while on the road; it's become something of an addiction. Banning phones while driving, which has occurred in some place, simply does not stop people.
The only way to make it happen is to make phones impossible to use while driving. But is this even possible.
Perhaps. New technologies have locked their crosshairs on this terrible trend, aiming to temporarily freeze cellphone services so drivers have no choice but to focus on the road.
In the U.S., T-Mobile has employed such technology. Quoth the New York Times:
T-Mobile announced a service this week that, for $4.99 a month, automatically disables rings and alerts and sends calls to voice mail when the phone is in a moving car. Sprint Nextel and AT&T said they were exploring the technology, while Verizon Wireless has been cooperating with small companies to offer a similar service on its network.
The services being tested and deployed are voluntary and can be overridden if a driver needs to use the phone for an emergency. They face real challenges in that the technology, for now, cannot distinguish whether a phone belongs to a driver or a passenger — or, for that matter, a bus rider.
Still, doubts linger, and with due cause:
Some safety advocates said it was not clear how widely consumers would adopt such technologies or whether they could work effectively. Many cellphone applications already are available from independent companies that claim to shut down a smartphone when it is moving quickly, but they have received tepid reviews from consumers and researchers.
Involved in the action is Vancouver-based Aegis Mobility: it's been working with Sprint to intercept calls and text before they actually reach the phone.
Aegis has a call to arms on its own website through a product called DriveAssist. Aegis Mobility notes that "the incidence of mobile phone-related crashes has increased significantly over recent years and 28% of all accidents are currently estimated to be caused by drivers using mobile phones." Its solution is the DriveAssist mobile client:
[It] runs in the background of a mobile user’s phone. It uses GPS and other sensors along with algorithms based on displacement of the mobile phone to determine driving.
The service automatically activates when driving is detected and restricts usage of the mobile phone except for emergency calls, allowing the driver to focus on the road. Once the service detects that the user has stopped driving, it automatically deactivates. The solution is designed with various optional features that can be customized based on the subscriber’s needs.
The product is available to wireless operators on a network-integrated basis and for enterprises on a non-integrated basis - Sprint being the most major adopter.
I certainly support any efforts to reduce the dangers of poor driving habits, and it's especially encouraging to see Vancouver companies marching into the battle against reckless drivers.