Cell-phone companies have made big profits from selling mobile services. It’s about time that they started doing something to counteract the epidemic of accidents caused by inappropriate use of those services by multi-tasking drivers.
Drivers talking on phones are four times more likely to get in car accidents than those who are not distracted. The elevated risk of crashes is even higher for drivers who text while driving – a problem that is especially acute for teenagers.
Thirty states have responded to these dangers with various forms of bans or restrictions on cell-phone use and text messaging while driving. Pennsylvania, however, has lagged behind. There are a few isolated local ordinances, but Pennsylvania has not really responded to the problem of distracted driving effectively on a statewide basis.
As a result, the text-blocking technologies that are now becoming available from cell-phone companies may be especially important in Pennsylvania. These technologies are designed to help people resist the temptation to text or talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel of a car or truck.
To be sure, the simplest solution would simply be to turn the phone off when starting up the car. “There already is a simple technology that prevents people from using their phone while driving – the off switch,” says John Ulczycki of the National Safety Council.
But this simple solution can be a bit too simplistic for people who text compulsively. For them – or for the parents of teens – buying a service like T-Mobile’s DriveSmart service makes good sense. The idea is to prevent the phone from ringing or pinging while the vehicle is in motion. Texts go straight to the in-box without pinging, and calls go right to voicemail. Other companies, including Sprint, AT&T and Nextel, are also testing out the technology.
The large carriers now have financial incentives to develop these text-blocking tools, because they can sell them as apps. They should sell a lot of them in Pennsylvania.