Distracted driving continues to be a life-threatening issue, and one of the primary causes of distraction is cell phones. Even while most drivers are aware of the risks associated with talking or texting while driving—and while two-thirds of all drivers believe cell phone use by others is a danger —only about 25 percent of drivers surveyed felt their own cell phone use was a problem. Most drivers also believe that hands-free technology has made the use of cell phones while driving perfectly safe, although research has shown otherwise.
In fact, the most recent research has found that drivers who use hands-free technology to talk on their cell phone still only see about half of everything going on in their driving environment. Ironically, while technology has become a serious threat to drivers on the roadways, technology may also be the solution. As a means of eliminating the distractions drivers experience when their cell phone is in the car with them, several new technologies have been developed.
The Technology That Blocks Technology
There are now devices as well as cell phone blocking apps which can be added to your wireless plan, downloaded on your phone, or installed on a device in your vehicle to create a barrier between drivers and the use of cell phones while driving. Many people resist the use of these apps and devices simply because they are afraid they will not be able to use their cell phone in an emergency. All blocking devices come equipped with a standard 911 override—in other words when you dial 911, the blocking is immediately canceled.
For those who fear missing an important phone call, perhaps from a child or an ill relative, some providers allow a “white list” of numbers who can still reach the driver, even when the blocking app or device is in place. Some of the options you might want to consider in a blocking app or blocking device include:
- Blocks of all incoming and outgoing phone calls;
- Texting blocks;
- Social media blocks;
- Blocks on all internet access;
- Battery conservation which prevents the app or device from draining your cell phone’s battery;
- Compatibility with most Android phones;
- Some compatibility with iPhones;
- An easy-to-use online dashboard, and
- Default settings if you are not comfortable creating your own settings.
Legal Penalties for Cell Phone Use While Driving
While the risk of a serious or deadly auto accident should be sufficient deterrent for drivers, in fact, it has proven not to be. Nearly all drivers who were asked about cell phone use and driving tended to believe it was only a problem for other drivers. One deterrent may be the fact that some states heavily penalize illegal tech use while driving. As of June, 2017, the use of hand-held cell phones was totally banned for drivers in 14 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Thirty-eight states ban all cell phone use by teen or novice drivers, and 21 states and D.C. ban the use of cell phones for bus drivers. States are tougher on texting while driving—47 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands all ban texting while driving, while Missouri bans texting and driving only for teen or novice drivers. The state of Alaska has the highest fines (by far) for texting and driving—up to $10,000 and up to a year in prison for a first offense. On the other end of the spectrum, the state of California only fines those caught texting and driving $20. The median fine for the entire nation is about $100 for the first offense of texting and driving.
Some Apps to Consider
All of the major cell phone providers have some type of app or device to alleviate cell phone use while driving. As an example, AT&T has a free app called DriveMode which works with either iPhones or Androids, turns on automatically when your car reaches 15 mph, and silences text alerts. If a person texts you, they will receive a pre-set response which tells them you are driving and will call back or answer the text when you stop. Most users find the app easy to use, and effective, eliminating distracting phone calls, texts, games and social media use for drivers. There are plenty of other apps and devices, so do your research and choose the one you like the best—it could save your life or the life of others.