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Safety-Driven Software Aims to Block Texting While Driving

Technology is emerging that could solve a growing menace on the nation’s highways: texting while driving.

A Georgia company today announces a partnership with an Irving, Texas, firm to provide software to government agencies and businesses that disables the texting, e-mailing and Web-browsing functions of a wireless phone in moving vehicles. Manage Mobility, an Alpharetta-based management and logistics firm, will provide technology developed by WebSafety Inc.

“We are being asked by our customers what to do on this sort of thing, especially since October … when President Obama issued the federal order banning federal employees from texting while operating government-owned vehicles,” says Stacy Chisum, Manage Mobility’s vice president of sales.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have banned the practice, but the laws are difficult to enforce. The national movement to discourage it — aimed mostly at young drivers — is spreading to corporate employees and the U.S. government.

Several applications disable cellphones when a vehicle is moving, preventing texting or surfing the Web. These apps, including iZup, tXtBlocker, ZoomSafer and CellSafety, use a phone’s GPS to determine when a vehicle is moving, and block the ability to text when the car is going faster than 5 or 10 mph. Some apps have opt-out features for passengers. The apps do not work on the iPhone.

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WebSafety developed CellSafety in response to the concern over teens texting, and the industry-based software grew out of that, CEO Rowland Day says. “We believe that employers are becoming fully aware of the extension of liability” for crashes caused by employees texting while driving, he says.

Ford recently announced that some of its 2011 vehicles will be equipped with a “Do Not Disturb” button to block incoming calls and text messages.

Some road safety advocates are encouraged. “One thing we don’t know is how broadly accepted this technology will be by drivers,” says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

About 1.56 trillion texts were sent in the USA in 2009, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association.

By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY – ATLANTA

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