There’s an App for That: Texting and Driving in Charlottesville

Text messaging has become a large part of the way the American public communicates. According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Americans sent 171.3 billion text messages every day as of December 2012. However, this “texting obsession” has posed serious problems. The most noted of these being texting and driving. In the 4.6 seconds it takes to read or send the average text message, a car moving at 55 mph will travel the length of a football field; without the attention of the driver, reports the US Department of Transportation. The largest amount of these drivers were under the age of 20 with 11% of fatal car accidents in this age range resulting from distracted driving.

In July of 2013, Virginia passed a law making texting and driving a primary offense, meaning violators can be pulled over if they are caught in the act. However, since this change in the law, very few tickets have actually been handed out. According to the ABC affiliated channel WJLA, in the first four months of the law change only 328 tickets were written. Under Virginia State Law, drivers can still use the dial function as well as the GPS system that many phones now come equipped with, making it hard for law enforcement to verify that the person in question is actually texting.

In order to maintain the safety of our nations drivers, many apps have been written in response. These apps,which disable the texting functions of the phone when the car starts moving or at certain times of the day, will help to protect our young drivers. Parents can enable the app through their children’s phones as well as their own. Some examples of these apps are below:

1. AT&T Drive Mode (free)- This strictly voluntary app available for Android and Blackberry can be turned on each time the driver gets in the car. The app not only disables calls, texting and web browsing, but it also sends a message much like an “out of the office” message that allows the person calling or texting to know that the person they are wishing to communicate with is driving and unavailable.

2. tXtBlocker ($6.99/month for a single user)- This app allows a variety of smartphone users to block off times of the day when the phone will not accept calls or texts. This app is great for daily commute drivers.

3. Textecution ($29.99)- This app automatically disables texting when the vehicle is moving faster than 10 mph based off of GPS signals. In order to use the texting capabilities when the vehicle is traveling faster, they must ask for an override from an administrator, such as a parent or other legal guardian. If the user of the device tries to remove the app in order to use the texting capabilities, the administrator is also alerted.

These examples are just a few of many apps that are on the market currently with each one suitable for different operating systems as well as having different functions.