Federal agencies, corporations and Oprah Winfrey are teaming up to make Friday the first official phone-free-while-driving day. They are calling it “No Phone Zone Day” and will include events promoting distraction-free driving and a national pledge to stop using phones while behind the wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 6,000 drivers are killed each year because of distractions such as texting. The federal government has set up www.distraction.gov, devoted to information about distracted driving and details on “No Phone Zone Day.”
The increased effort to combat distracted driving comes as a survey shows California’s law against texting while driving may not be an effective deterrent, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Automobile Club of Southern California survey found that, despite a decrease right after the ban took effect in January 2009, texting-while-driving has nearly returned to pre-ban levels.
The Auto Club observed 4,000 drivers in Orange County in March and April and found that 1.1 percent were texting when they drove by, an increase from 0.5 percent shortly after the ban began. The rate before the ban was 1.4 percent.
A few clever cellphone apps are now available to keep drivers off their phones, David Pogue reports in The New York Times. They use a phone’s GPS system to calculate the speed a person is traveling. When moving more than 5 or 10 mph, the phone locks, except for calls to 911 or from certain numbers.
The four new apps are called iZup, tXtBlocker, CellSafety and ZoomSafer and all have their shortcomings, Pogue says. For instance, the apps determine speed every few minutes, so it can take a while to block or unblock the phone. While the technology still has its glitches, it may prove useful for concerned parents or employers, Pogue says.