The ongoing controversy over the dangers of texting behind the wheel is leading to the emergence of a new generation of technological tools parents can use to control the dangerous behavior with their teen drivers. Texting is the leading cause of vehicular death in teenagers in the United States.
Thirty states have enacted some form of ban on texting while driving, but many teens circumvent the statutes by putting their smartphones in their laps, thus increasing the degree of their distraction. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, car crashes linked to cell phone use and texting increased 28 percent from 2005 to 2008.
Applications like Text Zapper, which is compatible with more than seventy types of smart phones (primarily Android-based handsets, and phones by Blackberry and Nokia), are evolving rapidly. Text Zapper activates automatically and disables the ability to text, send or receive email, or browse the Internet on the phone while the vehicle is in motion.
Additionally, the application will send an email notification to parents in the event of some concern — like an attempt to use the phone behind the wheel. This approach is more directly targeted toward phone behavior than a product like Teen Trakker, which allows parents to view the location of the vehicle via GPS technology.
Safety advocates agree that with the emphasis on connetivity in teen culture in the U.S., only approaches that either disable the phone or allow control of the device via voice will effectively combat the phenomenon of distracted driving. Many automakers are incorporating such technology in their newer models, like Ford’s SYNC handsfree system, but unfortunately, most teens tend to drive older vehicles as their first cars.