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A smart solution to teens' smart-phone driving distractions?

Distracted driving is becoming an increasingly notorious source of roadway dangers and teenagers are particularly likely to focus on phone distractions while driving. Although it only takes a moment of distraction to cause a serious car accident, teenagers frequently switch their attention to a phone.

A new app aims to help cut down on teen distracted driving. Like some other apps, DriveScribe starts by jamming incoming texts, calls, emails, and other phone updates while the car is moving.

But DriveScribe also goes a step further: it attempts to help teens drive better by giving targeted advice and tracking some behavior. For example, the app can tell when a driver is speeding and give a warning. Safe driving patterns reward users with points. Parents can register for updates on a teen's driving habits or speeding violations.

While jamming communication updates is a good way to cut down on distractions, we have to wonder whether this app could simply replace one distraction for another. Texting and talking are not the only sources of phone-related distraction. Many crashes occur when drivers focus on a GPS map service, for example.

Even with an app like this turned on, a driver would still be absorbing extra stimuli. For example, the phone's speed limit display and warning messages still attract a driver's focus. This kind of distraction could be nearly as dangerous as receiving a text message on the road.

A better practice might be to simply stow a phone out of reach while driving. It might make more sense to just put a phone in the trunk or backseat.

Since parents probably cannot trust teenage drivers to do this, though, apps like this are probably a smart and safer improvement.

Source: Mashable, "This App Turns Smartphones Into Safe Driving Tools," Kate Freeman, Aug. 30, 2012

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