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2nd Story

New technology blocks calls, texts while you are on the move

Dave Teater knows too well the dangers of using a cell phone while driving.

His son was killed in a car accident when another driver, talking on a cell phone, ran a red light. Teater, founder of Canadian-based Aegis Mobility, has created software which could eliminate the distraction of incoming calls while you are driving, according to an Oct. 15 story in Ohio's Columbus Dispatch.

The downloadable software, DriveAssist, uses global positioning technology to determine if someone is in a moving vehicle. If the car is in motion, all calls and texts are blocked. The caller is notified that you cannot answer the phone and they can leave a message, send an emergency alert or have the call put through when the trip is completed.

"We're conditioned our entire life to answer the phone when it rings," Teater told the Dispatch. "You just have to answer the phone, or at least look at who's calling. ... (This software) takes the whole decision-making process out of your hands."

He emphasized that when in "driving mode," the phone can still send and receive 911 calls. There is a feature to disable the technology when someone is a passenger and you can set it to allow certain calls through. Although, according to the Dispatch, no phone providers have signed on yet, Aegis Mobility has plans to launch it next year. The fee for the service is estimated to be between $10 and $20 a month.

Some are concerned that the cost might be a little steep for something that removes cell phone function, rather than adds to it.

Victoria Police Department spokesman Grant Hamilton had questions about how it would work, but said the software might be a good idea. He said there is not currently a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving in Victoria, the Canadian city where ParetoLogic originated. Data has not yet been collected that specifically identifies using a cell phone as the cause of an accident, according to Hamilton.

"Anecdotally speaking, anything that affects a driver's concentration is a concern," he told the ParetoLogic newsletter. "Drivers need to focus on driving, as the majority of accidents are caused by inattention."

In the U.S., insurance company Nationwide has partnered with Aegis Mobility and will offer discounts to its customers that use the technology. It is marketing the service to parents of teenage drivers and to businesses whose employees use company vehicles. A Nationwide survey of 1,500 people (can you qualify these 'people'? Are they people who have made claims with Nationwide, or otherwise been in an accident? Otherwise those numbers seem a little high) showed that 45 per cent said they have been hit or nearly hit by someone using a cell phone while driving.

Several states in America have enacted laws against the use of cell phones while driving. As of Oct. 21, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington have all banned talking on a handheld cell phone while driving. As well, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington have a ban on text messaging for all drivers. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have laws restricting cell phone use by novice drivers. The District of Columbia and seventeen states prohibit school bus drivers from all cell phone use when passengers are present, except in the case of an emergency.

In Canada, Ontario is currently considering a ban. Handheld cell phones are banned for drivers in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec, according to an Oct. 17 posting on the CBC News website. The posting also stated that about fifty countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, restrict the use of cell phones while driving.

Researchers from Halifax's Dalhousie University wonder if bans on handheld cell phones are enough. Their study reviewed more than two dozen scientific papers focusing on the effects of both hand-held and hands-free phones on driving. It showed that when people are on a hand-held device, they tend to slow down. Those on hands-free devices tend not to reduce their speed because they think they are safer, according to the study's authors.

"We actually drive with our minds ... and if our minds are busy, then we might make mistakes in driving," Dalhousie researcher Raymond Klein told the CBC.

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