3 services help you keep your eyes on the road
New services limit phone distractions while you're behind the wheel.
Driving distractions abounded at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as automakers and gadget manufacturers infuse vehicles with new entertainment technology, including live television, wireless Internet and connections to social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
“That’s, frankly, really alarming,” says Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, a collective of state highway safety offices. “Drivers want to do everything behind the wheel but drive.”
Driver distraction was a factor in 16% of all fatal crashes in 2008, according to a September 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It played a role in 21% of crashes where injuries were reported.
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In fact, there were also CES exhibitors this year who are trying instead to tap into the anti-distraction faction: They are promoting products designed to keep the driver’s eyes on the road and away from those gadgets. Chrysler, which recently announced it had banned employees from texting while driving company cars, is bringing out a text-to-voice feature that “reads” you e-mails and other incoming communication.
Other companies are showcasing things like an app that delays text and voice-mail messages if you are traveling more than 5 mph, and a messaging system that is voice-activated.
Distraction-free driving is more than just a safety issue. It can also save you money. Some insurance companies offer discounts to drivers who take steps to reduce distraction. Nationwide, for example, offers a discount of about 5% to policyholders who sign up for Aegis Mobility, which automatically holds incoming calls and texts while you’re driving. You’ll also avoid a pricey traffic ticket. Hand-held cell phone use is banned in six states and many cities; texting, in 19 states. New drivers face additional restrictions in 21 states and the District of Columbia.
Still not convinced? Then here’s a sampling of the latest phoning-while-driving-enabling tech:
IZUP: $4.95 to $9.95 per month, or $49.95 to $79.95 annually. Pronounced “eyes up,” this app automatically kicks into safety mode when your phone is traveling faster than 5 mph, holding all incoming texts and voice-mail messages for later retrieval. It blocks all outgoing communications, too, except those to 911. Worried you’ll miss an important call? You can preset other numbers that can call and text you (and you, them) on the road. Available on select BlackBerry, HTC, LG, Samsung and Motorola phones. Single-user plans cost $4.95 a month or $49.95 annually. Family plans for up to five phones cost $9.95 a month or $79.95 a year.
Dial2Do: $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year. This voice-activated messaging platform lets you use your wireless headset and existing cell phone to call your personal, local Dial2Do number while in the car. You can dictate e-mails, text messages, tweets and reminders. (You’ll need to set up account access online first.) A text-to-voice feature “reads” your incoming e-mails. You can also interact with business applications including Google Calendar and Xpenser. A free version allows consumers to dictate reminders (up to 20 seconds of recording), which Dial2Do e-mails to you.
TXtBlocker: $24.99, plus $9.99 per month. Software tracks your phone’s location to prevent texting and calling at school, in the office or on the road, based on parameters you set. Calls to 911 are always allowed, and users can add other numbers to a list to bypass the restrictions. Any incoming calls or texts are held until you’re in a safe zone. In the meantime, tXtBlocker automatically sends a text response to callers, alerting them that you’re driving and will respond later. Parents can track phone locations online and receive a text alert for speeding and travel outside a designated safe zone. Available on select BlackBerry, Motorola and Samsung phones. Prepay for a year’s service, and you’ll pay $100, saving $45.
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