The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Money

June 30, 2012

It’s the law: No texting and driving

West Virginia’s no texting while driving law becomes enforceable today, a law that will affect a large portion of the population.

A recent AT&T survey found that 43 percent of teens text and drive and 77 percent of teens said their parents have warned them about the dangers of texting and driving while frequently doing it themselves.

In addition, the survey indicated nearly all teens expect a response to a text within 5 minutes.

To address these concerns, AT&T has developed a DriveMode Mobile App that sends an automated response to texts that indicate the recipient is driving. It works like an “out-of-office” e-mail alert and aims to alleviate the pressure to respond to texts immediately.

A similar app, LocationLabs’ DriveSmart Plus, was designed for TMobile Androids. According to a review on cnet.com, DriveSmart Plus uses GPS technology to detect when the phone owner is driving and locks the phone’s ability to text or call. When activated, the application sends calls to voice mail and sends autorespond messages to incoming texts.

A search of Cnet also reveals text blocking apps for other carriers.

For iPhone and Android users, there are Voice Text, Siri and Sonalight text-by-voice applications, some of which are downloadable for as little at $4.99. These apps allow for hands-free voice-activated text messaging.

For people who may not have phones capable of those apps, many phones can connect through Bluetooth for the ear and car visor. At U.S. Cellular, Verizon and Radio Shack, Bluetooths start out at around $30.

Of course, some Bluetooths are only hands-free after a call has been dialed or answered. Others have voice-activated dialing depending on how advanced the Bluetooth is and its compatibility with your phone.

Joseph, the manager at Beckley’s Radio Shack, explained that traditional headsets (that plug into a cell phone) are much harder to find than they once were and are not always carried at supply stores.

A variety of Bluetooth models can be found on websites such as amazon.com.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study from 2009 released that text messaging has the greatest relative risk of all distracted driving, making drivers 23 times more likely to experience a “safety-critical event.”

And while talking on the phone while driving is only a secondary offense beginning today, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists talking on the cell phone among driving distractions such as eating, smoking, reaching for an object in the car and smoking.

A case-crossover study by the George Institute for International Health at the University of Sydney in 2005 indicates that using a hands-free device is not safer than using a hand held phone. The study asserts that the amount of brain work involved in holding a conversation creates a distraction and a 37 percent decrease in the part of the brain that manages spatial tasks.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

 

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