Cell Phone Software Reduces "Driving While Distracted"

October 15, 2008
There is mounting pressure against using that mobile phone while driving, even if you go the safe route of hands-free, Bluetooth talking. From the AP Wire, a new mobile phone technology developed by Canadian software firm Aegis Mobility was announced Monday. The software, called DriveAssist, works in concert with GPS sensors in certain mobile phones to detect whether they are moving at car speed, at which point the network will hold calls and texts until the phone becomes stationary once again.

David Teater is an employee at Aegis, and a personal tragedy led to his involvement in attempting to decrease what is known as "driving while distracted." His 12-year-old son Joe was killed by a driver talking on a mobile phone in 2004. Teater attempted to cut back on the habit of talking while driving, but admitted he found it extremely difficult: "We've been conditioned our entire lives to answer ringing phones," he said.

Currently, California and New York ban talking (and, in California, texting) without headsets, and while this would seem to be a step in the right direction to curb roadway incidents due to in-vehicle distractions, the AP story claims that it is the mental distraction of the conversation that diminishes reaction times and can lead to poor driving, not the act of punching buttons or holding a phone.

DriveAssist will operate on phones with either Windows Mobile software or Symbian software. The former can be found on "smart" phones, the latter on products from Nokia and Sony Ericsson. The cell phone's carrier would have to support Aegis functionality, and Aegis is hoping on prices of $10 to $20 per family for the service. As a bonus, insurance companies suchas Nationwide Mutual Insurance, which is a partner with Aegis in launching the software, will likely be offering coverage discounts of 3 to 10 percent.

How much do you talk while driving? Do you use a headset and/or Bluetooth to keep your eyes, reflexes, and focus on the road, or are you more than adept at the one-hand-on-the-wheel-one-hand-cradling-the-phone method? If governments start embracing (or requiring) services like DriveAssist, would your business or your convenience be unacceptably hampered by having to stop the car to talk on the phone?--Colin Mathews

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