You know it's risky business. Driving and cell phones just don't mix.
A study from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute used cameras and sensors to monitor drivers of light vehicles and trucks for more than a year. Not surprisingly, they found that cell phones were the most common driver distraction. Just talking on a phone raised a driver's accident risk by 1.3 percent. Dialing or reaching for the phone raised the risk by 6 percent. And texting was associated with a whopping 23 percent higher crash risk than not texting.
Knowing these risks, and my propensity to keep looking at the phone in the car even though I tried to avoid it, I made a commitment this year to put the phone out of my mind (and out of reach) while driving. And I'm not alone, social media expert, Peter Shankman, (founder of HelpAReporter.com) took that commitment one step further with this New Year's proclamation: "New rule: in 2011, if you update your status, text, FB, or Twitter me while driving, I will unfriend and block you. Anyone with me? Let's be safe out there, ok?" With almost 4,000 Facebook friends and 50,000 page "likes", I'd say this message had a pretty far reach.
So how do we keep our teens - and let's face it, ourselves - from texting and driving? Guess what, there's an app for that. Here are a few to consider:
Android, $29.99 one-time fee
Using the phone's GPS, Textecution disables a phone's texting feature if it detects that the phone is moving faster than 10 mph. If you want to override -say, if you are a passenger and not the driver- you can ask your phone's "administrator," to disable by texting "allow."
Android, Blackberry, Free for basic, $13.95/year for pro
DriveSafe.ly reads text messages and emails aloud while sending an auto-reply informing the sender that you're driving and can't reply. It's great for folks who really can't miss a text or email on the road, but want to avoid the distraction of looking at their phone. But you have to turn it on and off manually, so it may not be so great for teens (or adults) who are prone to forgetting/ignoring this feature.
Android, Blackberry, $9.99 per month
This app is like the hall monitor of text blocking apps. For starters, it blocks everything except phone calls while driving -texting, emailing, and Facebook - everything. It lets you set certain locations - like your child's school as "no cell" zones. And just to make sure your teen can't get away with anything, it includes location tracking and speed monitoring features, so you can receive a text if your child's location changes or if she's driving and her speed goes over 65 mph.