Death (and close calls) by texting

After a near accident on the Capital Beltway, GCN Lab Director John Breeden II is beginning to see the value in products that lock down phones when users are in their vehicles.

We all know that it’s bad to talk on the phone while driving a car, and even worse to text and drive. Most of us have enough trouble trying to work the radio. There have even been some spectacular accidents recently, such as the death of celebrity doctor Frank Ryan, who drove off a cliff in California while texting people.

And yet still people do it. Personally, I don’t see what the appeal is. When I’m in my car I’m trying to get from point A to point B in one piece, which, given that I need to drive on Washington’s Capital Beltway, isn’t always the easiest thing.

Just the other day there was a massive wreck on the American Legion Bridge that had me dodging cars as they skidded across four lanes of traffic, plowing into the concrete guardrails on all sides of my vehicle. I guarantee if I was texting at the time, I wouldn’t have had the split second reactions needed to get through that mess that started unfolding all around me like an episode of CHiPs. I don’t know specifically what caused the accident, but one woman who went careening across the road in front of me clearly had a cell phone in her left hand as she was crashing.

I recently saw a press release from a company called ZoomSafer, which is making a product that locks down phones when users are in their vehicles. It does this by detecting the Bluetooth signal inside a vehicle, or can be manually activated by drivers.

GCN also reported earlier this year on a similar product called CellControl.

At first I was a little annoyed that someone would want to lock out my phone. That’s kind of like saying that cake is bad for you so your refrigerator is going to lock itself down after dinner to keep you safe from consuming too many calories. We’re Americans and we want to do what we want, when we want, good or bad, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to see it as a good thing.

You see, some people simply can’t be trusted. They have no willpower. And unlike overeating, texting while driving has the potential to kill more than just the person doing the action, as my close call on the bridge demonstrated. It’s kind of like second-hand smoke that way, only second hand texting while driving can put an 18-wheeler in your lap.

The ZoomSafer software is meant to be deployed by companies or agencies to protect their workers, presumably ones using company-issued cell phones, though individuals can buy the software too. It even has a helpful feature that will automatically respond to incoming texts telling the sender that the user is currently driving and will respond to them as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Anyone who understands the danger of texting and driving should respect that message and not get too annoyed at the lack of instant communication that we have all become accustom to having.

Of course, some people will find ways around the ZoomSafer software. That’s not really the point. There will always be idiots. But giving us the ability (and the excuse) to be safer drivers is something I think we can all get behind. Let me know if you agree with me, or if we can only pry your texting phone out of your cold, dead hands.

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