3 Cellphone Apps To Block Texting While Driving

We’ve been talking about the dangers of texting while driving for a while, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s no joke: texting is 23 times more distracting than talking on a phone. In spite of this, most people do it anyway. If you just can’t help yourself, here are three apps that will limit your ability to text while driving.

Name: Textecution
Price: $1.99
Supported platforms: Android (Droid, CLIQ, G1, and G2 in the U.S.), although they are currently developing the app for other phones.
How it works: This program is marketed to parents of teenagers, who need as few distractions as possible while driving. Using the phone’s GPS, Textecution disables texting if it detects that the phone is moving faster than 10 mph. If you want to override, like if you’re a passenger or on a train, you can ask your phone’s “administrator,” usually a parent, to text “allow” to disable. This feature could also be useful for a company that gives phones to its drivers. It’s unclear whether the owner of the phone can be its own administrator, so this app might not be great for autonomous grown-ups who frequently ride in trains.

Name: DriveSafe.ly
Price: Free for basic, $13.95 for pro
Supported platforms: Android, Blackberry. Windows Mobile and iPhone support are coming soon.
How it works: DriveSafe.ly reads text messages and emails aloud on the phone’s speaker. It also allows you to select several auto-reply messages to respond hands-free, although it’s unclear if this is only available as a pro feature. It’s also unclear whether the basic free model is a beta, as clicking on most of the site’s links just prompt you to install the app.

Name: TXTBlocker
Price: $24.99 initially, then $9.99/month
Supported platforms: Blackberry, and some others
How it works: This is one of the most annoying websites I’ve ever seen, with a lady in the lower corner of the screen cheerfully telling me about the product, who disappears once you click a button to shut her up, only to have her audio come back, unblockable, when you go to any other page on the site. This, combined with the generic “sexy blonde” picture on the main page, as well as the ludicrous price, would have deterred me from becoming a customer even if they supported my phone.

That said, TXTBlocker allows you to set time and location restrictions for texting or talking on the phone. One suggested use of this is to prevent kids from texting at school. There is a safe list of numbers, like 911, that can always be dialed. You can also block texting or using the phone while the phone is traveling at certain speeds. So pretty much the same stuff that Textecution does, but for much more money.

Do any of these apps appeal to you? Are there any not on this list? If I knew I had a problem with texting while driving, I’d probably like the idea of someone else, like my spouse, having control over it. There’s obviously a need for some kind of solution to the problem of texting while driving, as it seems like people aren’t going to restrict themselves. On the other hand, couldn’t you just put your phone in the backseat or trunk while you’re driving, so you have no temptation?

(Photo: frankieleon)

Comments

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  1. ExtraCelestial says:

    I prefer to endanger the lives of the innocent.

    But if I had to choose I guess DriveSafe.ly because it’s the only one not all out blocking

  2. Bush2008 says:

    You could always talk to your kids, or if you’re an adult, have a little self control.

    Ah, nevermind; that’d be stupid and who would we place the blame on? Bring on the applications!

  3. kexline says:

    I’m in college, and holy Christ do some kids need a schedule-based anti-texting app. Even before the recent txtdriving kerfuffle, I thought it was utterly irresponsible that the mobile carriers refuse to offer schedule-based and incidental text blocking. The carriers have managed to get rid of payphones and they’ve benefited from the histrionic 24-hour news cycle, so now most(?) high school and college kids have phones. Yet they won’t make this one concession to education.

    I’m serious, though I don’t know if anyone can imagine what it’s like without being in the middle of it day after day. I love personal responsibility and all, but you can’t *really* expect an 18-year-old boy to ignore messages from girls during class.

    • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

      @kexline: That’s kind of what college is partially about: learning to be a responsible adult. Can’t ignore text messages in class? Get booted, miss important information, fail an exam and/or the class. Sorry, it’s pretty tough love, but if someone’s in college they should have enough self-restraint to leave the damn phone alone and pay attention.

      • kexline says:

        @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: Sure, you’re not wrong — I just think that taking the initiative to cut off messages would actually constitute a high degree of responsibility and self-care for a hormone-poisoned young man.

        I don’t recall where you work, but again, you really have to be the Jane Goodall of college students to see this stuff. Three years ago I would have been just as judgmental as you, and really, I’m hardly a font of sympathy for my “peers” who ask me why they’re failing, then disregard my advice to “forget” their phones when they head to their more challenging classes. But I do think that kids — and especially the sad, quivering masses of biological imperative called “boys” — really do have some new challenges at school that those of us over about 25 didn’t have. Adults created these problems, and I think it’s at least partly up to adults to help kids mitigate the effects.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @kexline: Its much easier if kids and teens learn this responsibility during high school or middle school rather than learn it when they are in college so its up to the parents and teachers to some extent to help teach teens that texting while in class even while in college is inappropriate. The consequences are much more dire in college than they are in high school especially with the high cost of college these days. Failing even one class can set you back a semester and then you have to pay for another semester of college because you weren’t paying attention.

      Whether your paying for college yourself or your parents are paying your way through college I can’t imagine anyone who would feel good about going home and telling their parent that they failed a class or 2 and will have to repeat them (mostly due to texting), thus making their time in college more expensive and longer.

      I can’t imagine many professors who would tolerate it either. I would imagine most have a no cell phones rule on during class (except in dire emergency situations). It wouldn’t be fun lecturing a class of zombies that are texting and not even paying attention to anything that the professor says.

      Yes I realize that all will not listen, and those that don’t will find out the hard way, but the foundation has to be there as well, they have to be taught early on by a school or a parent that texting in class will have consequences later on.

  4. Dafrety says:

    The ones that use the phone’s GPS would be the worst. I know anytime I turn my G1’s GPS on the battery really starts draining.

  5. angryneo says:

    Oh no! What will I do if I can’t text and drive?

  6. hamburglar says:

    Common sense: there’s an app for that.

  7. hi says:

    Can we still check our mirrors or is that 10 times as distracting while driving??

  8. Garbanzo says:

    Where do you get that “most people” text while driving? The linked posting says only that more than half of drivers use a cell phone while driving, not that more than half text while driving. I had trouble downloading the survey mentioned in that post, but AAA says, “A nationally-representative telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted April 15 – May 12 2009 found that…over one in five [drivers] admit reading or sending text messages or emails while driving.” ([www.aaafoundation.org])

    20% isn’t “most people.”

    • hi says:

      @Garbanzo: Agreed. Surveys are BS for many reasons.

      1. They manipulate the data to suit their needs.

      2. People lie on surveys.

      3. They give bogus multiple choice answers.

      Personally I’m tired of the surveys on TV. It’s all a big lie. I could conduct a survey right now that says I’m God. Yup one in five people have said that I’m God. But guess what? I’m not.

  9. sir_eccles says:

    My phone has an off switch.

  10. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    “so this app might not be great for autonomous grown-ups who frequently ride in trains.”

    However, it might be great for those of us who ride trains with autonomous grown-ups who LIKE TO SHOUT THEIR ENTIRE CELL CONVERSATIONS on the commuter train.

    • oneandone says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): That’s one thing the subway is good for (for now).

      I’ve seen regional rail systems (in PA and VA) starting to have quiet cars – and all the notices indicate that the cars were established at passenger groups’ request. Maybe your commuter train service needs some lobbying?

    • ZeusThaber says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): I live in quasi-rural Japan, and one of my favorite things about the train system here is the socially agreed upon cell phone etiquette rules.

      All those delightful signs telling you to put your phone on ‘manner mode’, and to refrain from talking on it while on the train.

      One time I did see someone talking really loudly with no concern for anyone else on the train. 1) I was surprised by how annoyed I was by it. 2) The Japanese people were looking at him like he was a deranged drug addict. Kind of a mixture of scared/appalled.

    • Charmander says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): Ha! Just yesterday I got treated to a shouted conversation from the person in the stall next to me in a public bathroom. Guess she couldn’t hear so well over the flushing and water running so she had to SPEAK REALLY LOUDLY. Fun.

  11. KTK1990 says:

    Also might want to avoid the internet. There are some websites that let you IM people that I know works perfectly on the iPhone.

  12. medfordite says:

    I remember hearing at one time that when radios were first put in cars, there was an uproar similar to cell phones. They all thought that the radio would be a distraction on the road. Look at us now, flipping radio stations, putting on make up all the while eating and yacking on the cell phone.

    I have a preset message on my phone which at least makes it look like the phone cares about me:

    Automated Message: The user you have contacted is driving and will respond later.

    This isn’t automated but it does let you send the message at a red light within a few keystrokes rather than typing it out. Even if you are 200wpm on your phone but 40wpm at home on the computer. :)

    I personally don’t text and drive, have been foolish enough in slow slow neighborhoods with me the only one on the road and that was scary enough.

    Now, what scares me is the new phones made for seniors. In my area which is a retirement mecca, I see the combination of slow drivers, and also fast drivers. They are all seniors and I literally had one tailgate me today. I couldn’t figure out if they couldn’t see well enough or if they were the proverbial “Hot Rod Granny”. Nonetheless, if you combine the typical senior who goes under the posted speed, doesn’t signal and then is texting, you have a recipe for major trouble.

  13. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): NEVER underestimate the look of death.

  14. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    That’s why I have a tiny little cellphone blocker I bought overseas that is completely illegal but is SO MUCH FUN to turn on in class. The looks some students get when they can’t see a signal on their phone.

  15. tbax929 says:

    I have a coworker who almost got us into an accident because he was responding to an e-mail on his Blackberry while driving. I was in the passenger seat. I haven’t ridden with him again, and nor will I. Mind you, I asked him several times during the trip to stop fu*king with the Blackberry and watch the road.

    What the hell did any of these fools do before they had the technology? Oh, I know. Wait until they got back to the office to respond to an e-mail. Jeez.

  16. Kat says:

    I am against these programs because I am frequently a passenger who likes to text.

  17. bobcatred says:

    … okay, so the problem with this is that the people who are stupid enough to be texting while driving (hello, just freakin’ call the person and plug in your happy little headset. The calls are usually cheaper than the texts in the U.S. anyway, and you don’t have to see to blather on and on via voice. At least you can see it coming when you’re about to run over that pedestrian) probably aren’t particularly interested in looking for ways to stop themselves from texting.

  18. John Rob says:

    It was not possible for me to text and drive with concentration. Now I avoid texting while driving. Drivesafe.ly mobile application sends out automated reply to incoming text messages.

  19. John Rob says:

    Accident scenes are displayed everyday in TV news and blogs and most of them are caused by texting while driving. It is dangerous to be distracted while driving. I use mobile application of http://www.drivesafe.ly/ to send out text messages and stay focused on driving.

  20. Henry_Harding says:

    Thankfully softwares like http://www.drivesafe.ly/ are coming in the market for just the purpose of not having to text while driving. They’re highly effective and people are waking up to this innovative and safe way of staying connected while on the move.

  21. captainpicard says:

    @jvanbrecht:

    incorrect. the appropriate control functions need to be the parents. If you can’t trust your child not to text and drive then you shouldn’t allow them to text at all. parental responsibility, it’s nothing new.

  22. zombies.like.lattés.too says:

    @Trai_Dep: how would a driver getting shocked by 20,000 volts be safer than a driver texting?

    I imagine that amount of voltage would seriously impair someone’s ability to drive…

  23. Coles_Law says:

    @Trai_Dep: As an added bonus, it would reduce the battery life to about 15 minutes, further removing any distraction.

  24. H3ion says:

    @Trai_Dep: You could also give your kids a car that can’t go over ten miles an hour.

  25. TheWillow says:

    @captainpicard: I agree with your statement, though I’d replace that last “text” with “drive.”

  26. jvanbrecht says:

    @captainpicard: I was not removing the parental responsibility from the equation, only the technical responsibility from the local device. Parents would still be the ones to set the limits (or like you say, not allow them a device in the first place), those limits however would be enforced on the back end.

    Anything on a local device can be defeated given enough ambition (trust me on this.. I am a security professional, but I have never slept at a holiday inn express) and time.

    As for trust and responsibility, we all know teenagers do exactly what their parents tell them without waiver……….

  27. Con Seannery says:

    @Trai_Dep: That’s just natural selection at work.

  28. hypochondriac says:

    @Con Seannery:

    I hope you guys never run into some suffering from Road Rage, you’d either get shot or beat up

  29. DH405 says:

    @Con Seannery: I do hope you have a concealed firearm license and the matching hardware.

  30. kexline says:

    @Areyouagoodlittleconsumer: I’m a little more explicit with tailgaters and premature honkulators — I actually stick my hand out the window and count to five, so that they understand that they’re stuck because I’m responding to their aggression, not just because I’m incompetent. (And no, I don’t do a special version of “2”. I live close enough to work that I’ve had to retire my middle finger.)

    I doubt it helps, but it makes more sense than reinforcing their notion that everyone else just doesn’t know how to drive.

  31. Digitizer says:

    @zombies.like.lattés.too: But they sure won’t try TXTING while driving again, will they?

  32. Trai_Dep says:

    @zombies.like.lattés.too: True. But every strand of their hair will be sticking out like a porcupine, providing an important cushion for the driver, while the “OWW OWWW YIIIII OWWWW!” screams they’ll be making will provide an important auditory warning cue to anyone sharing the road with them.

    @Digitizer: What some term “a painful paralysis while piloting a vehicle hurtling at 80MPH”, I prefer to call “break-in training period”.

    @Coles_Law: As an added bonus, once they stopped drooling, screaming and defecating, they’d be ideal customers for a plug-in recharger! Well, and a Handi-Wipe or two.

  33. Outrun1986 says:

    @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): Ah its been a while since I was in school, but the standard rule was no cell phones on in class, I guess that has changed since recent emergencies. You weren’t allowed to have it on unless you had a family member ill for instance.

    However I don’t think they could do anything to you for answering a call during class but you would have probably gotten a good talking to from the professor.

  34. Excited_Utterance says:

    @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): This is tangential, but I teach at Virginia Tech, and the Emergency Notification Systems are a joke. When it’s deployed, it’s usually hours after the incident has happened, and I don’t know about university policy, but my department hasn’t said a thing about cell phones. It’s almost enough to make you believe that the Emergency Notification Service and increased police presence on campus is merely a psychological tool.

    That said, we have virtually the same classroom policies! While some students are dumb, I’d much rather overestimate than underestimate their intelligence and ability to execute some kind of social grace

  35. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    @Outrun1986: I can throw them out of class if they’re misusing the privilege. And I can make them all turn theirs off if I leave mine on, but I teach at a CC so I have a lot of “non-trad” (adult) students who have kids and I think it’s good for them to have that lifeline to their kids in case there’s a problem.

  36. techphets says:

    @jvanbrecht: I must be a bit slow today. What would a Holiday Inn Express have to do with this or your being a security professional?

  37. XTC46 says:

    @TheWillow: or iPhone users are too dumb to read so they dont text.

    (Im just bitter becasue I dont have an iPhone…I however am not bitter that I dont have ATT)

  38. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    @hypochondriac: Why should we drive in fear and let violent maniac speed demons control our roadways? Believe me, every single incident gets a 9-11 call while on the highway with their license number, so they wouldn’t get away with it. I also go routinely 10 miles over the speed limit in the fast lane, there’s no sign that says that lane is for cars going 50 over the limit folks, get a grip.

  39. ohenry says:

    @techphets: Agreed.

    It’s especially bad because its a lot harder to text on most smartphones. When I had my…non smart phone (a dumb phone, I guess?) I could text while driving fairly easily, because feeling my way across the buttons was easy and I had the button combinatinos for each letter memorized.

    On the smart phone, you really need to see the keyboard, and the times I have texted while driving on mine (a Blackberry Curve) I’ve found that I cannot keep my eyes on the road for any length of time.

    I just try not to altogether now.

  40. tbax929 says:

    @techphets:
    It is. Thankfully, I sit in so much traffic and construction that I usually have enough time to answer an e-mail before I can even move again.

  41. holytrainwreck says:

    @techphets: In Ontario it’s now the law: Hands-free devices ONLY when driving.

    It’s simple common sense. Hang up the damn phone and drive.

  42. Digitizer says:

    @Trai_Dep: I hear that when the taser discharges, it auto-emails the victim a coupon for 1.00 off a 8 count of Charmin Ultra, featuring patented “less is more” mini technology-pockets….

  43. Chinchillazilla says:

    @Excited_Utterance: My school has an notification text system too. I have never received one, even when class was canceled and the internet was out due to weather.

    It never actually occurred to me before this thread that having our phones off during class interferes with that system. :/