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Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Service Blocks Incoming Calls While Driving

Goal is to Prevent "Driving While Distracted" Auto Accidents

Recently, a Canadian software company named Aegis Mobility announced that it has developed software called DriveAssistT that will detect whether a cell phone is moving at car speeds. If so, the software will alert the cellular network, instructing it to hold calls and text messages until the vehicle is parked.

Incoming calls are not completely blocked by the software. Callers will be greeted by a message saying the person they're calling appears to be driving. They can hit a button to immediately put through an emergency voice mail if circumstances dictate.

Laws against talking on a cell phone while driving have been introduced in several states, including New York and California, but they still permit hands-free devices like Bluetooth headsets to be used. However, studies have indicated that hands-free devices may not help. It's the distraction of dialing or talking that appears to be dangerous, not taking a hand off the wheel.

In 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that dialing or talking on the phone caused 7 percent of crashes and near-crashes. For the study, onboard "black boxes" recorded the drivers' actions.

In 2007, 41,059 people died in traffic accidents.

In 2004, after a driver who was talking on a cell phone killed David Teater’s 12-year-old son Joe, he found it very difficult to cut back on his own habit of driving and talking.

"You have to remember to turn the phone off ... which you never remember to do. Or you have to ignore a ringing phone, which is incredibly hard," Teater said. "We've been conditioned our entire lives to answer ringing phones."

Teater became a supporter for curbing what he calls "driving while distracted," and now, he's part of a company with a technology that can help.

Aegis' software will be compatible with phones that employ Windows Mobile software, popular for "smart" phones, or Symbian software, used in phones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Aided by a cell-tower signal, it uses the phone's Global Positioning System chip to detect motion. Aegis' CEO Dave Hattey said that if the phone has a Wi-Fi antenna, that can be used as well.

Although the software has to be supported by the cellular carrier, Aegis has no deals in place yet, but is in discussions with the big U.S. networks. Teater, who is a vice president at Aegis, said that the company hopes to make the software is available through a carrier, probably for $10 to $20 per month for a family.

The software can be managed remotely through a Web site. For instance, parents will get alerts if their kids override the motion-sensing feature to indicate that they're riding in car rather than driving. A corporation that buys the software for their employees can do the same.

Aegis is bringing out DriveAssistT in partnership with an insurance company. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. said it plans to offer a discount of 3 percent to 10 percent on family policies for people who use DriveAssistT.

Online courses are now available to educate drivers on the rules of the road and the latest defensive driving techniques. Try it today!

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