Text police: Vlingo, Text Arrest, ZoomSafer

The number of apps aimed at keeping you from breaking texting-while-driving laws is growing. Here's a glance at three.

Ever since California passed its no-texting-while-driving law, we've seen a steady stream of mobile apps aimed at overcoming the temptation. Most are marketed to parents of rebellious teens and lock down certain phone features, like texting, e-mail, and placing calls after sensing movement of 10 miles per hour or so. TextArrest is one such freemium application we've seen at CTIA 2010, and many others abound in a section of the show floor carved out specifically for mobile driving solutions.

As with some of the others, TextArrest--which also has a commercial solution for policing a company's professional drivers--takes the angle of tattletale, alerting parents--or bosses--when the naughty driver travels over a certain speed limit, leaves an agreed-upon neighborhood, or engages the emergency or passenger override. It has a tiered pricing structure that covers up to 10 phones.

Vlingo logo

Similarly, ZoomSafer offers the app's administrator a chance to customize the app's policy for shutting down communications while driving, choosing when to suppress incoming phone calls, and maintaining the ability to force incoming calls through a paired hands-free device like a Bluetooth headset. Some of ZoomSafer's features include sending replies back to the caller or texter that the person in question is driving. VoiceMate is a new feature the company showed at CTIA; it reads texts and e-mails aloud so drivers don't have to miss out on important communications.

We're all for voice transcription (even if we poke fun of it at times,) but ZoomSafer's additional $4 per month surcharge on top of the standard fee seems steep, especially when voice command app Vlingo now offers a similar provision for BlackBerry phones, called SafeReader, as part of its free service--but you'll have to upgrade to the premium service to dictate texts and e-mail.

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