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Are 'safe mode' apps the answer to distracted driving?

Arizona is one of more than 30 states that have imposed laws banning the use of handheld cell-phones while driving. But even with these laws in place, many people continue to text and talk while behind the wheel in Arizona and elsewhere.

Teenage drivers are especially known for not being able or willing to disconnect from their social networks while in vehicles. In fact, according to federal driving data, about a third of teens admit to texting and about half of teens say they talk on their phones while driving.

Unfortunately, many distracted teen drivers are getting into fatal car accidents as a result.

Most parents talk to their teens about the dangers of distracted driving but worry that they aren’t getting through. That’s where new phone applications come in.

The applications create a “safe mode” that disables features such as texts, social apps and calls while a vehicle is in motion, often using GPS data. A few of the apps even include technology that alerts parents when teens have turned off or disabled the safe mode.

According to a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Cellcontrol and TeensSafer are two of the best “safe mode” apps currently on the market. The spokesman said that both apps alert parents when “attempts to tamper with or override the system” have been made.

Additionally, Cellcontrol’s spokesman said that app is integrated with the teen’s vehicle to activate when the vehicle is in motion instead of “guessing based on a satellite.”

The technology will likely only improve in coming years as distracted driving continues to persist on American roads, even with the surge of hands-free systems in vehicles. As we discussed last week, studies have suggested that hands-free devices are no safer than handheld devices when used while driving.

Source: Washington Post, “Apps for parents curb distracted teen drivers,” Ashley Halsey III, April 20, 2014

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