Solving the Text-While-Driving Epidemic

Text SettingsI want some clever person at Apple, Samsung, Nokia, et. al. to develop a new hardware button to allow users to put the smart phone on “drive mode”. The new “drive mode” button would essentially operate similar to the “airplane mode” setting, but would have the additional cool feature of optionally replying to any text message with a customizable “I’m driving right now – will reply, as soon as I stop the car“. The temptation to respond to a text while driving is too much for most text-aholics. The FOMO factor is too great for the hyper-socially connected. So let’s dampen the temptation, while still staying connected. Feed your texter pals a sign of life. Let them know you’ll get right back to them. All without having to touch or look at your device while operating the car.

At the intersection of technology and behavior, there need to be solutions to both dimensions. Communications campaigns, legislation, scary statistics, bumper stickers are all good, but we need to hit this problem on the technology front too.

In response to the annoyance factor, most phones now have a silencing hardware button. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s supported by social pressure. You know what this means if you’ve ever had your phone sound off in a large group, after you’ve been specially requested to silence your phone.

If we can easily effect behaviors and solve the annoyance factor, I’m confident we could also solve the safety factor. Behavior-only based changes are not impacting the statistics. The statistics are so dramatic, you can’t believe they are true. Why? Because, if they were legitimate, then surely there would be a bigger movement to make a change. For example, “Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park estimate more than 3,000 annual teen deaths nationwide from texting and 300,000 injuries.” or put another way “11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts“. Where is the MADD organization for texting?

Who would have thought that this freedom-loving country would have been successful in legislating car seat belts? Don’t you feel naked without your seat belt now? But we did it, and I’m sure we will solve the texting while driving problem too. I look forward to the day, when driving while using a phone feels every bit as strange as driving without a seat belt. It does for me already, I look forward to more people joining me!


About lynnmorstead

Writing about the small things that shape our lives
This entry was posted in Apps, Culture, Media, Millenials, Parenting, Society, Technology, Texting, Travel, Uncategorized, Young Adults and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Solving the Text-While-Driving Epidemic

  1. Rhonda says:

    I’m with you on this, even though I don’t know what FOMO is! Of course, as you know, I am in permanent airplane mode, and never need to respond to the plaintive request, “Please silence your cell phones”. I agree though that the tech companies will need to take the lead, just as they did with delivering some type of free bundled security software so that those who didn’t buy something would always have a way to secure their computers from spam. Turned on cellphones are a type of spam that is infecting the minds of our drivers, and killing us all. If MADD would change their name to Mothers Against DISTRACTED Driving, I’ll be they could get the ball rolling. Just as March of Times changed their focus from only polio to the general health of pregnant women and babies, so can MADD change their focus from drunk driving to all types of distracted driving, especially amongst our teens, but also our grown teens who don’t know a world without being online/connected all the time.

  2. Gloria P says:

    I would also love a feature that if your phone is moving at more than 10mph it will automatically set it to driving mode.

  3. Gloria P says:

    Here are some good apps available now. Neither perfect but a good start.

  4. tina doyle says:

    Totally agree

  5. Dick Schmitt says:

    Lynn, I am trying to get my son John interested in this. He recently sold GoPhoto and is looking for his next entrepreneur opportunity — plus he is in a network of like thinkers in silicon valley.


  6. celia says:

    YES! Thanks for the post and for listing the available apps. I wish a couple were for the iphone.

  7. I checked out those apps that Gloria linked to. I believe “Canary” has the best chance of solving this problem.

    Why? All of the other apps seem to “disable” (or auto-respond) to text messages. However, there are tons of apps that are essentially “text/SMS over data connections”. That means, since phone companies charge for true text/SMS, if you have a data plan, you can use any of ~1,000 apps that send the text over your data plan, bypassing the text/SMS phone charges. (Whatsapp is the most famous such app, but there are copycats galore). So, anything that “blocks text” would need to block this ever growing list. And, any teen who doesn’t like the block will find alternatives.

    Canary is essentially spying on, & reporting back, like a NSA for the parent. That’s not going to prevent things, but can lead to consequences. That’s a “trust, but verify” approach, & “manage by exception” strategy that I like.

    • lynnmorstead says:

      Thanks for checking out these apps Cody! I’m going to test Canary on my own phone to see how it works, then might consider making this a requirement for anyone in my household whose phone bill, car insurance and health insurance I pay for. Hate the lack of trust that this implies, but am thinking it could be a useful deterrent for all of us.

  8. Pingback: The Vanishing One-on-One | All those days that came and went …

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