While there are numerous things that can take a driver's eyes off the road, being unable to ignore a text or let a call go to voicemail is becoming a leading cause of car accidents. In 2009, 18 percent of distracted driving-related fatalities involved using a cellphone while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Even hands-free devices have been found to impair driving. According to a University of Utah study cited by the U.S. Department of Transportation, driving while talking on a cellphone, whether hands-free or handheld, delayed reaction times as much as driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08.
Despite the fact that many states have laws limiting cellphone use or texting while driving, the number of cellphone-related accidents and injuries continues to grow. As a result, there are a growing number of mobile phone applications that prevent drivers from talking or texting while driving:
- DriveSafe. This mobile application by PhoneGuard features software that disables your phone's texting and emailing capabilities once your car reaches a certain speed (as determined by your phone's GPS signal). It also features controls that let parents program the phone so that certain features, including texting or checking Facebook, are allowed only during designated times. Even when the phone is "blocked," the program allows incoming calls and 911 calls.
- iZup. iZup is designed primarily for companies that employ drivers. Once the car is in motion, iZup is activated. The app prevents outgoing calls and holds incoming calls, text messages and emails.
- DriveSmartPlus. This app for T-Mobile users automatically disables the phone's calling and texting capabilities once the car reaches speeds of 10 mph or more, sending calls straight to voicemail and turning off text alerts to eliminate distraction.
Yet using your phone increases the risk of an accident. And because the accident would be your fault, you'll likely see your auto insurance premiums increase, not to mention the possibility of more tragic consequences. If you are traveling and must use your cellphone, follow these tips:
- Pull over. If you absolutely need to use your phone, get off the road so you are not distracted.
- Use an app. Install an app like the ones mentioned above to minimize temptation.
- Never text or email while driving. Texting and emailing while driving require both your eyes and hands, which should be on the road and the wheel. Save texting and emailing for when you're no longer in the car.