Ask just about anyone and they will tell you that texting and driving is “dangerous” and “stupid.” However, despite this general consensus, most of us still text and drive. In fact, at any point during the day there are roughly 660,000 drivers using technology while behind the wheel in the United States alone (Holbrook, 2014). It seems that agreeing that an action isn’t wise isn’t enough to prevent the average person from still engaging in that action…at least when it comes to texting and driving. That leaves us with the question of “what now?”
Some believe that the answer to preventing texting and driving is banning the activity. In fact, 44 states have enacted laws against texting or using hand-held phones while driving (Holbrook, 2014). Unfortunately, studies have revealed mixed results in relation to those bans. A recent study (from this year) showed that bans on texting and driving cut teen car accident fatalities by 11%; however, a study from 2013 showed that bans only work in the first few months before drivers adapt to the new laws (Aho, 2014).
However, there are additional or alternative options to legal actions. Perhaps this pervasive use of technology anywhere at anytime needs a technological solution. In response to the challenge, several apps have surfaced to try and stop texting and driving.
One such app is Canary, which was released in 2012. According to Chris Thibault, co-founder of 52inc, the firm that developed Canary, “Canary simply notifies parents when one of their teenage drivers is talking on the phone or texting while driving. Basically, it tells on you,” (Holbrook, 2014). While Canary doesn’t out and out block texting or phone usage while behind the wheel it does seek to teach responsible behavior. The hope is that teens will come to associate the use of a phone while driving with real life consequences and therefore, even when they aren’t being monitored, they’ll be able to resist the temptation to reach for the phone while in the car.
However, Sherry Dedman of the Distracted Driving Foundation fears apps that don’t completely block texting might not be enough; she says, “Technological solutions which can’t be simply overridden are a better solution. They take the temptation away from the driver,” (Holbrook, 2014). Apps that fall into this category include Textecution, which blocks those in a vehicle going faster than 10 mph from receiving or sending text messages.
There are also apps available that read messages aloud to the driver and those that send away messages for the driver (letting the sender know that the receiver is currently driving and unable to respond). Dr. Daniel McGehee, director of the Human Factors and Vehicle Safety Research Division at University of Iowa, says, “I think an auto-response that says you don’t talk or text while driving would be very effective, because it also has an educational component. The legislative component, the technological component and the educational component are the three legs of the stool,” (Holbrook, 2014).
At the end of the day, there probably is no stand-alone best solution to preventing texting and driving. Rather, components will have to work together to complete the puzzle. Dedman agrees and says, “The ultimate solution is a law that requires anti-texting apps be installed on all phones or any such display-intensive device going forward,” (Holbrook, 2014).