Cellcontrol blocks texting while driving

Device plugs into onboard computer to keep drivers from texting

One of the most common — and dangerous — distractions for drivers is texting. According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a person who texts while driving is 23 times more likely to be in a crash than a driver who isn't distracted.

As the dangers of texting while driving become more apparent, both government and industry are stepping in to limit the practice.

President Barack Obama last October signed Executive Order 13513, which bans federal employees from texting while driving when using government equipment. Nineteen states plus Washington, D.C. and Guam have banned texting while driving.

A few technology companies have joined in the fight against distracted driving, offering devices that will restrict texting and cell phone use while driving.

One of these companies, Cellcontrol, has developed a device that can prevent texting while a vehicle is moving. Using a Web interface, an administrator can set Cellcontrol to block texting and cell phone use, or customize it to allow only certain calls. The device always allows 911 calls.

Most other such devices rely on a Global Positioning System, said Leigh Gilly, vice president of business development for Cellcontrol. All the Cellcontrol system cares about is whether the car is moving, not where it is located.

Cellcontrol uses the computer system that automakers have installed in vehicles made since 1996, Gilly said. The hardware, about the size of an AC adapter, plugs into the onboard diagnostic system port, located within three feet of the steering column. The OBD system is what communicates whether the engine is on or off, as well as the vehicle’s speed, Gilly said.

The device uses Bluetooth and software that’s loaded onto the mobile phone. As soon as the vehicle starts moving, a “blocked” message appears on the phone when the user tries to access texting capability.

An override features alerts the system administrator if the device is tampered with or removed, Gilly said.

Two versions of the Cellcontrol device are available. One, for fleet management, costs $89.95 for the hardware, $24.95 for the software and a $5.95 monthly service fee. A version for family use starts at $59.95 for the hardware.

“If technology has caused the problem, technology can fix it,” Gilly said.

For more information, see www.cellcontrol.com.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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