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New app blocks texting, talking while driving

Relying on drivers to exert self control each time they get behind the wheel is about as effective as McDonald's letting consumers order salad instead of fries with their value meals, which is to say not terribly.


Relying on drivers to not use their phones each time they get behind the wheel is about as effective as McDonald's expecting consumers to substitute a salad for fries with their value meal. But LocationLabs, which develops location-based services for mobile devices, released an Android app that takes the honor system out of the equation, and automatically prevents the driver from receiving or making calls or texts while driving.

LocationLabs' DriveSmart Plus application is a one-time opt-in subscription service that automatically enforces this practice. Ford's MyFord and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems have a similar "Do Not Disturb" option that blocks texts and sends calls to voice mail, but it requires drivers to select the option each time they get behind the wheel.

To automate the blocking, DriveSmart Plus uses GPS technology to detect when the phone owner is driving and locks the phone's ability to text or call. When activated, the application sends calls to voice mail and sends autorespond messages to incoming texts. However, it's not clear if LocationLabs' app blocks all other phone applications, such as Pandora or Facebook, when it is activated.

Because the phone uses GPS technology to detect when you're driving, it would also lock the phone when you're a passenger or on public transit. In addition to an emergency 911 button on the screen, the application provides an override button that enables you to unlock the calling and texting features. For parents using the application to help teen drivers stay focused on the road, the app will notify them by e-mail or SMS when the application is overridden.

For the moment, DriveSmart Plus is available only for T-Mobile customers with the LG Optimus T phone, but the company will make the application available for more devices. The service costs $4.99 per month, which is probably enough of an extra charge to deter the majority of users who are just looking for a little extra nudge in the right direction to stay safe. For parents, the extra charge is a no-brainer, but I'd rather see these apps as standard functionality on all new handsets instead of a bell and whistle because safety should be a must-have, not an option.