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by Tim Beissmann

The statistics clearly show the dangers of texting while driving:

  • One US study found that drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in an accident while texting, and that texting while driving is equivalent to driving under the influence of four shots of alcohol
  • The National Safety Council in the US estimated 28 percent of all American vehicle accidents – or 1.6 million per year – are related to mobile phone distraction, and texting is believed to be responsible for between three and 18 percent of the total
  • A 2006 study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre into the effects of text messaging while driving on young people found that the time drivers spent with their eyes off the road increased by up to 400 percent when sending and receiving messages
  • A poll by Telstra at the beginning of this year found that almost one third of Australian drivers admitted to sending and receiving texts while behind the wheel.

These startling numbers have led to the development of systems that attempt to remove the distraction of mobile phones, by automatically blocking texts and phone calls when the car is in gear.

New Berlin engineer, John Looby, is the man behind one such new system that connects to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and disables texts and calls until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.

Mr Looby believes the simple and inexpensive device could one day become as common as airbags and seatbelts.

Ford Motor Co is set to feature a similar system in its 2011 vehicles equipped with MyFord or MyLincoln Touch. Called “Do Not Disturb”, mobiles paired with the onboard SYNC system will not receive texts and all calls will be forwarded to voicemail. Ford’s system does not restrict voice-activated outgoing calls.

Some GPS-based smart-phone applications also block texting when they detect the phone is moving, but have their limitations, as they cannot tell the difference between when the owner is driving or simply a passenger.

According to the Australian Road Rules, the only time a driver is allowed to touch a mobile phone when a car is not parked is if they are handing it to another passenger in the car.

Texting, hand-held talking, emailing, turning the phone off and on, and operating any of the other functions are all banned. Resting a phone on any part of the driver’s body, besides in a clothing pocket or pouch, is also illegal according to the road rules.




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