EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 20, 2013

Apps, tips hinder texting while driving

Every time I’m in my car, I’ll notice at least two or three drivers texting on the road. It’s become a serious epidemic.

More than 100,000 road accidents a year involve texting, according to the National Safety Council. Studies conducted at the University of Utah show that texting while driving can result in an eight-times greater chance of getting in a crash. That’s twice more likely than if you were legally drunk.

Phone carriers are taking positive steps to tell motorists about the dangers of using digital devices while driving. They’ve even produced a heart-wrenching short film by acclaimed documentarian Werner Herzog that brings home the tragic consequences of texting and driving. (To learn more about their campaign, called “It Can Wait,” go to www.itcanwait.com.)

So technology got us into this mess. Can it help us get out? Sort of.

If you don’t have the wherewithal to not pick up your phone while driving, then there are features and apps that you should know about that can motivate you or a loved one.

For Windows Phone users, an upgrade to the Windows Phone 8 operating system is coming soon that will include a new “Driving Mode” feature.

When you turn this on, it silences all incoming calls and texts so you won’t be tempted to pick it up while driving. It can automatically turn itself on when your phone’s Bluetooth connectivity is activated with a headset or stereo system in the car. It won’t stop you from making outgoing calls and texts, but at least it can prevent you from getting distracted by incoming messages.

For iPhone users, there’s a similar function called “Do Not Disturb.” When activated, it will silence all calls and alerts (including text messages) when the phone is locked, which presumably is the case while you’re driving. You can even set it to permanently silence calls and alerts. You also can schedule a time when the feature turns on (for when you’re sleeping, for example), and you can create exceptions for certain types of calls.

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