The Times West Virginian

Opinion

April 3, 2014

TextLimit app one more step in cutting down distracted driving

Every day in the United States, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in vehicle accidents that involve distracted drivers.

That statistic comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which goes on to say that 69 percent of U.S. drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 reported that they had talked on their cellphone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.

The CDC classifies distracted driving — driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving — in one of three main categories: visual (taking your eyes off the road); manual (taking your hands off the wheel); or cognitive (taking your mind off driving).

Distracted driving certainly isn’t a new problem. In fact, the CDC reports that in 2010, 18 percent of vehicle accidents — nearly one in five — in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.

When you consider that the following year, in June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S., representing nearly a 50 percent increase from June 2009, the true magnitude of the issue becomes more evident.

Even more alarming? The CDC says nearly half of all U.S. high school students 16 years old or older send text messages or emails while they’re driving.

Leaders in West Virginia have taken steps to curb distracted driving, and driving while using a handheld device became a primary offense in July 2013.

We believe the law has helped decrease the number of distracted drivers on West Virginia’s highways, but we also know there are still drivers who just can’t seem to put down their phone while they’re behind the wheel.

And that’s what makes the idea behind a new smartphone application so appealing.

Louisville, Ky.-based Mobile Life Solutions has developed an app called TextLimit that the company says will help prevent distracted driving.

Licensed Kentucky and West Virginia drivers can download the app to smartphones free of charge. The app works in conjunction with the smartphone’s GPS software to determine how fast a vehicle is going. Beyond a certain speed, texting and most calling functions on the phone are deactivated, although emergency 911 call functions will remain active. The app can only be programmed by an administrator, such as a parent or fleet supervisor, and it monitors vehicle speed and location as well.

The app, which became available Tuesday at www.textlimit.com and is free with the codes NOTEXTKY or NOTEXTWV, makes a lot of sense. And while we certainly hope drivers are abiding by state laws — in West Virginia, that means putting cellphones away or using them with the aid of a hands-free device — we think this app offers another form of protection against distracted driving.

The launch of the app is also appropriately timed, since April is recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Bill Bell, who serves as treasurer of the National Governors Highway Safety Association and executive director of Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet, said Kentucky has tested the app extensively and concluded it is effective and reliable.

“I am convinced TextLimit will help reduce the escalating incidents of distracted driving deaths and collisions in Kentucky and the U.S.,” Bell said.

Reducing that number is certainly key. According to the National Safety Council, there have been more than 259,000 crashes involving drivers using cellphones and texting so far this year. That’s more than 259,000 chances of someone being hurt or even killed.

Any method that helps keep even one more person from driving while distracted is a method we should all be in favor of.

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