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Your Phone Knows That You've Been Texting While Driving: Yes, There Could Be An App For That

The McClellan Law Firm

For the past two weeks we've been blogging about how cell phone use while driving is under attack by safety advocates, who point to the high rate of car accidents that occur while drivers talk or text. Well, one physicist believes that he can develop an app that would be able to determine when you've been texting while driving.

Mike Watkins, a physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, believes a quick reminder of the dangers of cell phone use while behind the wheel might be enough to convince people to pull over or wait until they reach their destination before sending that text.

Watkins has devised a mathematical formula that detects with 99 percent accuracy the erratic patterns with which people punch the keys of their cell phones while driving. Using that formula, software developers conceivably could create an application that would appear on a cell phone whenever it detects those patterns. A simple alert reminding cell phone users that they are using their phone in a dangerous situation might be enough to make them stop. The application could even be programmed to shut down the phone altogether.

Watkins developed his formula with his then-teenage daughters in mind. Indeed, teens are prime offenders when it comes to talking and texting while driving. According to government data, teenage drivers accounted for 16 percent of all car accidents in 2009 involving distracted drivers. If Watkins' idea for a no-texting application comes to fruition, parents could download it onto kids' cell phones to give them peace of mind when they hand over the car keys. Employers could use it to offset liability for employees who make calls or text while driving on company time.

Laws in many states, including California, prohibit cell phone use while driving. But as we've mentioned before, despite these laws many people still continue to talk or text and drive. Perhaps such an app would be an additional solution to reducing distracted driving?