Related News

Home » Feature

Lockouts for texting drivers

MANY parents would love to be able to give their teenagers a cell phone that couldn't be used while driving. Now some inventors say they have come up with ways to make that possible, but they appear to be relying on wishful thinking.

One product to hit the market, US$10-a-month software by Dallas-based WQN Inc, can disable a cell phone while its owner is driving.

It uses Global Positioning System technology, which can tell how fast a person is traveling. But it can't know whether the person is driving - and therefore it can needlessly lock a phone. WQN, which sells cell phone and Internet security software under the name WebSafety, says it signed up about 50 customers in its first month of service.

Aegis Mobility, a Canadian software company, plans to release a similar GPS-based product this fall, known as DriveAssistT. Aegis is in talks with big US wireless phone carriers, which would have to support the software and charge families a fee of probably US$10-$20 a month, said David Teater, the company's vice president.

The DriveAssistT system will disable a phone at driving speeds and send a message to callers or texters saying the person they are trying to reach is too busy driving. But because that person could be a non-driving passenger, the approach is a blunt tool.

Other product concepts that don't involve GPS systems have their own flaws. A pair of inventors affiliated with the University of Utah have developed a prototype of a key fob device that communicates with a cell phone over Bluetooth wireless signals.

The key fob wraps around an ignition key; when the key is flipped or slid open, the device disables the cell phone paired with it.

As a result, Parry Aftab, executive director of, who advises families on technology and safety, suggests worried parents find another way to stop their kids from calling or texting while driving. Parents are better off taking away a child's cell phone if it is used improperly, she said.

Concerns are mounting that driving while talking or text-messaging on a cell phone, even if it is not handheld, is unacceptably dangerous. The National Safety Council said last month that there should be a total ban on cell phone use while driving, citing the higher risk of accidents and deaths.

Hardly deterred

At least 18 states in the United States restrict cell phone use - talking or texting - for some or all drivers, according to the insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Yet even in those states, motorists and especially young drivers are hardly deterred.

One of the worst accidents occurred last year in New York, when five teens were killed when their 17-year-old driver, carrying on a text conversation, collided with a tractor-trailer rig.

B. Michael Adler, chief executive of WQN, said his 18-year-old son came to mind as he was developing the company's software to disable a cell phone while driving.

"He's texting messages with two hands and driving with his legs," Adler said. "You flip him the keys to the family car, you might as well be flipping him a six-pack of beer."

WQN's surveillance service promises more than just disabling the phone in cars. It can monitor a person's whereabouts, notifying parents by text messaging when their children step out of designated zones or return home.

It also can turn off a cell phone at school.

The question parents would have to ask themselves is whether they'd want to prohibit their children's activities this way.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend