Will technology like Textbuster do what people themselves won't to stem the flow of traffic fatalities? While the exertion of self-control to refrain from texting and stay offline while driving a car cost nothing compared to Textbuster's $179 to $199 price, statistics suggest the free approach has not made inroads with much of the driving public.
Textbuster is a new device unveiled at the SEMA aftermarket car show this year, Consumer Reports says. It consists of an under-dash module and downloadable phone app. Once installed, Textbuster blocks incoming and outgoing texts and access to the Internet when behind the wheel. Others in the car are unaffected. The device is password-protected so it can't be disabled by alternate drivers.
Besides precluding behind-the-wheel texting and web surfing, Textbuster provides the designated administrator route histories, speed alerts, and notice of attempts to disable it. Some may view this as an unwarranted invasion of privacy, and for those folks there are alternatives.
Drivers who use AT&T may want to consider a free app available through AT&T. Called AT&T Drive Mode, the app sends an automatic reply to incoming texts that the recipient is driving and cannot respond to the message. The app also works with phone calls and email. An "allow" list ensures the driver can make and receive emergency calls.
Some newer cars have built-in response systems featuring options like read-aloud text, as an alternative to call-blocking, while others provide call-blocking options, Drive Steady says.
How Much of a Problem is Texting Behind the Wheel?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says more than 800,000 drivers are using handheld cellphones at any moment during daylight hours. Texting is the most alarming of all driver distractions, NHTSA says, because it involves three simultaneous types of driver impairment -- cognitive, visual, and manual.
Don't Text and Drive points out texting increases the risk of a crash 23-fold, while Drive Steady notes the risk of a serious crash goes up 800 percent for texting drivers.
A Nationwide survey found 19 percent of drivers overall text while driving. For teens, the statistics are significantly higher. Don't Drive and Text noted 46 percent of teens text while driving, according to a 2007 survey of 1,000 teens conducted by Students Against Destructive Decisions. DTD notes teens who text spend 10 percent of their driving time outside their lane.
Carol Bengle Gilbert writes about consumer issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.