Texting while driving is incredibly dangerous, especially for teens who are the least experienced driving population. Unfortunately, almost 50% of drivers under 35 admit to texting while driving. And right now, there’s no magic bullet that will stop this practice, despite huge education campaigns and new laws. But technology may be able to help – new approaches using mobile phone monitoring and location-based technologies are emerging that can more accurately identify texting while driving situations.
Texting while driving is a dangerous practice, according to the statistics:
- A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver (2009, VTTI)
- 49% of drivers with cell phones under the age of 35 send or read text messages while driving (2011, Harris Poll).
There are a number of approaches to addressing the problem:
- Education to deter texting while driving – many different government and private organizations have been publicizing the dangers of mobile phone use while driving and texting while driving, to little effect. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, fatalities associated with driver distraction increased by 22% from 2005 to 2009, despite considerable declines in overall crash-related fatalities.
- Legislation to ban cell phone use and/or texting while driving – there are currently bans on hand-held mobile phone use while driving in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, and almost 40 US states currently ban texting while driving. Unfortuntaely, studies examining the influence of legislative bans on handheld phone use have reported either no significant effects, or limited benefits. One national survey found that despite a variety of laws, 40% of respondents reported talking on the phone while driving at least a few times per week.
- Technology to disable cell phone use while at driving - this approach is problematic from a number of standpoints, including the fact that this may interfere with emergency communications (calling in or out), the phone user may or may not be driving (e.g. a passenger), and these types of mobile applications either require the user to voluntarily turn them on before driving, or they are easily disabled.
Is technology to monitor texting while driving the answer?
New location-based features available in Android mobile phones have recently been combined with text message monitoring apps to allow the detection of text messages being sent while a vehicle is moving (TxtWatcher Alerts Parents About Kids Texting While Driving). The recommended approach is for parents install an app on their children’s Android mobile phone to silently monitor texting, the app sends alerts when potential texting while driving situations occur, and parents counsel phone holders (in this case, teenage drivers) after the fact. Though these kinds of apps cannot tell if the person with the phone is actually driving, parents can nevertheless monitor their teen’s texting behavior while in a moving vehicle, which is a huge step in the right direction.
In the end however, none of these approaches are 100% effective at stopping texting while driving today. Researchers are calling on the tech industry to create technology that makes it impossible for people to use cellphones when driving. Cell phone manufacturers, mobile operating system organizations and automobile manufacturers need to work together to enable a better, technology-based solution to this problem.
About the Author
Dan Maier is an entrepreneur, and parent of a teenage son approaching his driving years.
Author: Dan Maier