Can’t Stop Texting While Driving? This Device Is for You
An ignition interlock helps you put the brakes on distracted driving
Parents used to have to worry about drinking and driving as their teenagers got behind the wheel, but now texting while driving has become an equal, if not more worrisome, threat — for adults, too.
“The best thing to do is put your phone away when you get behind the wheel, and don’t touch it again until you’re parked,” says Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Unfortunately, most drivers fail to heed this advice. Many states have enacted laws banning texting while driving, but drivers continue to do it. Every day in the United States, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers.In addition:
- Studies show that when novice drivers text, they increase their risk of a crash or near-crash nearly fourfold.
- 69 percent of drivers surveyed reported that in the last month, they had talked on their cell phone while driving, and 31 percent said they had texted or sent emails from behind the wheel.
- 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admitted they have extended text conversations while driving.
This hazard has spurred a new industry that’s taking willpower out of the equation: ignition locking devices designed to prevent texting while driving.
Similar devices were originally developed to prevent drunk driving and allow people with driving under the influence (DUI) offenses to drive as long as they stay sober. With these, the driver has to breathe into the breathalyzer before the car will start. Currently 24 states require all DUI offenders to use them, and studies suggest they have been extremely effective.
Devices that fight texting while driving operate on a related principle: They prevent the car from driving if your phone isn’t secured in a docking station. The first one on the market, OrigoSafe, does allow you to use your phone via your Bluetooth, which is good in case of an emergency.
“There are ways you interact using a phone — voice, visual and manual. We set out to get rid of the visual and manual interactions,” says Clay Skelton, President of ORIGO, which makes OrigoSafe.
You can use verbal commands via the Bluetooth device, but if a driver takes the phone out of the docking station, an alarm sounds until the phone is replaced (you can create exceptions, like allowing the driver to take the phone out if the parking brake is on). The cost for OrigoSafe is $399, according to the website, and it includes installation.
The NHTSA does not have data on how effective voluntary ignition interlock systems are. However, Trowbridge says the agency supports any “safe and legal approach to discouraging any driver from texting while driving.”
Other anti-texting ignition interlocks are under development.
Unlike apps that block incoming calls and texts when someone is driving, which have to be turned on before driving, ignition interlocks stay on, so you can’t be tempted to circumvent them.
Of course, it’s cheaper to just stash your phone away, in the glove compartment or even your trunk.
NHTSA recommends creating ground rules and a contract with your teen about unsafe driving behavior, including texting while driving. Besides talking with their teen and having them sign a contract, NHTSA officials urge parents to model safe behavior at the wheel.
This is especially important because surveys show 41 percent of teens say their parents drive unsafely even after their teens ask them to stop.
If you have a teen or young adult who drives, or if you yourself ever text while driving, an ignition interlock might just save your family from a preventable tragedy.