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Driving While Using the Cell Phone

Natural Health
By: Nicki
Published: Friday, 26 December 2008

As a blind individual, one thing I will never be able to do is drive. However, I do ride with my mom and also with my friends at times. Mom is a very safe driver; she watches the road and never eats or talks on the cell phone while driving. But many other people do drive while distracted. One estimate held that cell phone distractions alone cause 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year. And, among teens, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death. That is why I am an advocate for a new device I read about recently that is aimed at cutting down on road deaths by preventing teenagers from talking on cell phones or text messaging while driving.

The device, invented by researchers at the University of Utah, is called Key2SafeDriving. It encloses an automobile key—one for each teen driver, or for any family member, and then connects wirelessly with each key user’s cell phone either through Bluetooth or RFID (radio-frequency identification) technologies.

To turn on the car engine, the driver must either slide the key out or push a button to release it. Then the device sends a signal to the driver’s cell phone, which places it in “driving mode” and a “stop” sign is displayed on the phone’s screen. While in the driving mode, the driver cannot use their cell phone to talk or send text messages, except for calling 911 or other pre-approved numbers, such as family members’ numbers. Incoming calls and texts are automatically answered with a message saying, “I am driving now. I will call you later when I arrive at the destination safely.”

Studies by other researchers at the university have shown that driving while talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. Several states have banned cell phone talk and texting while driving, especially for novice drivers. Co-inventor, Xuesong Zhou says that “at any given time, about 6 percent of travelers on the road are talking on a cell phone while driving. Also at any given time, 10 percent of teenagers who are driving are talking or texting.”

The university has obtained provisional patents and licensed the invention to a private company that is currently working to manufacture and commercialize it. If things go as planned, the company hopes see it on the market within six months and says the technology may be licensed to cell phone service providers to include in their service plans. The cost is estimated to be less than $50 per key, plus an undetermined monthly service fee.

Not only could this device improve driving safety, it could help parents get lower insurance rates. By using the system, you could prove that teen drivers are not talking while driving, which could significantly reduce their risk of getting into an accident.

The marketing company hopes to get automobile and insurance industry backing so that Key2SafeDriving data on cell phone use and non-use while driving can be collected and compiled into a “safety score” of sorts and sent to insurance companies monthly, which then could provide discounts to motorists with good scores.

I personally think it’s a wonderful idea and if I were a parent, I would want one for my teen. Actually, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if everyone in the family had one—just to keep things fair!


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