Smart phone app puts an end to texting while driving

February 25, 2010 7:38:00 PM PST
If there is one thing teenagers love, it is texting their friends. They are also eager to start driving. However, mixing the two has proven to be deadly, and that has some parents pretty worried.

Texting while driving is illegal in California, and yet, you would be surprised how many young folks have owned up to doing just that. Now a new cell phone application would make that impossible. So we decided to see how it works.

Eighteen-year-old Aujan Jackson admits she is addicted to the trendy Sidekick smart phone. It connects her to her friends 24/7.

"I don't necessarily have to be texting, but I need to see what's going on with my phone, like my phone is like my life," she said.

The same is true for Mike Sierra.

"It's just to be in the constant contact with everybody else, I guess," he said.

They both love texting and both drive cars. But surely they would never do both at once, or would they?

"You know what, I do do some texting while I'm driving," Sierra said. "At stop lights only."

"At the stop light... I try not to get distracted but it's hard because it could be important," Jackson said.

Aeden Bowater-Skeloy was in the back seat when a teen-aged driver began texting.

"She had one hand on the wheel and one hand on her phone. I started yelling at her," he said. "Ended up rear ending the car in front of her and basically flipped her car around and it was just all bad."

That kind of calamity inspired a new cell phone application. It's called iZUP, as in keep your eyes up. It was invented by a worried mom from Boston. iZUP automatically shuts off your cell phone when the car is going faster than five miles per hour. It works with motion detection and GPS software.

ABC7 interns Mandy and Jenna Marie helped us put iZUP to the test. Before their car moves, Mandy begins texting away while Jenna Marie drives. When the car reaches about 12 miles per hour, Mandy's cell phone shuts down. All she can see is the iZUP logo, a button to let her call 911, and two other pre-programmed numbers -- like her mother's. But she can't call her friends and texting is impossible. The phone stays locked even at stop signs or in stalled traffic.

Parents like Joe Hudson love this idea.

"Technology presents its challenges; texting while driving are the challenges," he said. "It also, however, presents some solutions. So that's the good part."

Younger folks don't seem to like the idea as much, not even Bowater-Skeloy who was in that accident.

"I don't know if that's completely necessary," he said.

"I don't know about that limited interaction with my phone though," Sierra said. "I don't know if I could do that yet."

"I don't know what I would do," Jackson said. "I'd be like, dang hurry up and get out of the car."

The application will turn off your phone even if you are a passenger, or riding a bus, or using a hands-free device like Bluetooth. iZUP costs $5 per month or $50 per year.