Taking an Initiative to Curb Cell Phone Use While Driving

March 30, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Samantha Cangelosi
scangelosi@smu.edu

Amanda Hernandez, a San Antonio resident describes the time when she ran into to the driver’s side of a car that pulled out right in front of her.

“When the police got there they went to her car, then to my car and told me they said her cell phone was found in the car open to a text,” Hernandez said.

The police told Hernandez that the accident was not her fault and ruled it as driver inattention by the other motorist.

In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving, according to reports by the National Highway Safety Administration.

Now, developers of a new smart phone application hope to reduce the number of cell-phone related accidents. MobileLoc, developed by Dallas-based MobileLutions, disables in-bound and out-bound cell phone features when the car attains a certain speed.

“We believe this will save lives,” says Doug Ortega, co-founder of MobileLutions. “Also, this is a way to help companies avoid these types of accidents, and reduce punitive damages.”

MoblieLoc is available for free to the public for those with a Blackberry and Android by downloading it from the MobileLutions website, www.mobilelutions.com. The iPhone version is set to be released this month.

Mobile Tattletale Applications, LLC and Textecution are two other applications available for Blackberries and Androids that terminate cell phone use while driving

Right now, American Airlines is using MobileLoc on a trial basis says

Once a company purchases the application, they can personalize the settings by disabling some or all of the mobile features of their employee’s phones, said Ortega.

“The administrator would go in and put in the miles per hour that would disable texting, email, browsing…any application so that it would become blocked,” said Ortega.

Light-truck drivers had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash, reaching as high as twelve percent of the drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Jani-King, a national commercial cleaning company, purchased the application because of concerns for their employees texting while driving, said Greg Kennemer, Jani-King spokesman.

“On our phones we are blocking three things: texting, browsing and emailing,” he said.

Kennemer wants people to know that their company takes the safety of their employees and the public seriously.

“We didn’t want to be the cause of any unnecessary accidents.”

He thinks that MobileLoc has helped. The company now reports fewer than five accidents per month, down from up to six per month.

Zachariah Castillo was in an incident similar to Hernandez’s happen to him.

Last year, Castillo was waiting at a stoplight. When the light turned green he attempted to make a lane change. He noticed that the driver to his left had yet to realize that the light had changed because they were texting on their phone.

Thinking he had enough time to get in front of the car, he made the lane change.

“The next thing I know, I guess she wasn’t paying attention, but she rear-ended me,” he said.

The driver had realized the light had turned green and pressed on the gas, unaware of Castillo now in front of her.

The alleged distracted driver had hit the Texas State University senior.

He was found responsible in the accident because proving the other driver was on his or her phone is something that is extremely difficult without getting phone records, he says.

“I felt very angry. It just makes me mad that I got in trouble for something that wasn’t my fault,” said Castillo.

More drivers in Southern states were observed using hand-held electronic devices than in any other region of the country, according to a 2009 National Highway Safety Administration.

“We are seeing an increase in driver distraction, which would include cell phone use,” says Corporal Robert White of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

In Texas, texting or talking on a cell phone is banned in school zones; however, each city has the choice whether or not to enforce the law.

“Each city has to go ahead and approve the cell phone usage in their city during school zones because there are some cities that don’t have that particular law,” said White.

Dallas and Rowlett ban the use of cell phones in school zones.

Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol level at .08 percent, the legal limit, according to a study by the University of Utah in 2006.

“I always see people driving on highways going 65- 70 miles per hour and they are texting. You never know when they are not going to look up,” said Castillo.

“We are suggesting to people that are driving that they turn their phone on silent …or pull over on the side of the roadway if they are having to text or make a cell phone call,” says White.

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