There’s a new app in town, and its mission is to save lives.
By now, you’d have to live under a rock not to know that texting and driving is dangerous. According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of all accidents are caused by driver inattention, much of it being increasingly attributed to mobile phones.
iZup, a take on the phrase “eyes up,” is a new app and service that aims to reduce those numbers. Activating when phones sense a speed of over 10 miles per hour, the program sends calls to voicemail and puts texts on hold until the vehicle has stopped. The only communication permitted is for emergency only, for calls to parents or 911.
Slated for release on October 15, iZup costs $4.95 per month (or $49.95/year) for one handset, and Family plans covering 3 or more people are available for $5.95 monthly (or $59.95/year). The website doesn’t appear to be ready, so if you want more info, you can follow iZup on Twitter here.
The one thing that’s unclear about this and other services is how (or if) the app distinguishes whether the user is a driver or passenger. This is a challenging snafu that some other programs have unique workarounds for, including:
- Key2SafeDriving, which features a hardware and software component. There’s a Bluetooth device attached to a car key, which opens up so the key can be used. The device communicates with a user’s phone, activating the service. Calls can then be redirected to voice mail, and texts return an autoresponder stating the phone’s user is driving.
- DriveAssist. This service operates on a network level to reroute calls and texts when it thinks the user is driving (based on handset data from accelerometers, wireless baseband data, Bluetooth, WiMax, WiFi and GPS). It offers an override feature for passengers whose phones get errantly activated.
- ZoomSafer, a call/text redirection utility with autoresponders when the handset is in motion (faster than 10 mph). It doesn’t completely disable the phone, but emits an alert sound when messages from designated priority contacts arrive. At the push of a button, it reads them out loud. It’s in beta for BlackBerries, but various services are being readied for use across different platforms, including non smartphones.
- DriveSafe.ly also reads texts and emails. But it’s different from ZoomSafer in that it’s not limited to three contacts. And its push-button activation works prior to driving (not during). I like this option over the others that disable a phone completely, because if there’s an important message, drivers will know and have the option of pulling over to respond. But parents should note that this relies on the driver’s discretion for activation, so those looking to monitor (or restrict) your kids’ phone usage behind the wheel may need to look elsewhere.
- Mobivox may not necessarily be focused on safe driving, but it’s still worth considering. Coupled with a hands-free device, the speech-to-text technology lets drivers compose texts and emails while keeping hands firmly on the wheel. (Otherwise, it requires holding the handset up to the face — which sort of defeats the purpose.) Though many people consider any kind of phone activity a distraction while driving (and I can’t say I disagree), this at least this offers an alternative to fumbling with keypads.
If you’ve gotten this far, then chances are, you recognize the serious risk of driving and texting. But even if you don’t, you may just want to keep from getting ticketed or fined for breaking the law. That’s where things get confusing. Some states single out certain types of phone behaviors, while others outlaw all mobile devices behind the wheel, but only for certain type of drivers.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association created a chart that outlines the latest legislation, broken down by state, as of September 2009. Click here to find out the scoop on what's legal in your state (or a well-traveled neighboring one).