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Apps That Offer Safe Alternatives to Texting While Driving

by Stewart Wolpin on April 19, 2010

While driving home in suburban Virginia in September 2008, Matt Howard was fiddling with his cellphone. Distracted, Howard didn't see his neighbor's nine-year-old riding his bicycle. Howard hit the boy, sending him careening into another neighbor's front yard.

Fortunately, the boy wasn't badly hurt. And, fortunately, Howard was a software entrepreneur and decided to create a product, ZoomSafer, that restricts a phone's usage while driving to voice-only commands.

Howard is not alone in his distracted in-car cellphone usage. Unfortunately, it often takes near—or actual—fatal accidents to wake people up to the dangers of cellphoning while driving.

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), 40 percent of drivers reported they cellphone while driving at least a few times per week, and 19 percent talk daily. As a result, 22 percent of car accidents in 2009 were caused by cellphone usage.

What's the answer? Reports of people being killed don't seem to work. Passing laws hasn't worked—27 states have passed laws prohibiting some or all cellphone usage while driving, most of which the IIHS have found to be ineffective.

Since we can't seem to stop ourselves from potentially fatal auto-multitasking, there are more than dozen apps to help curb our deadly car-texting and phoning. These solutions come in three basic types:

  1. Dial-In Service
    You phone into a text-to-speech/speech-to-text subscription service, which reads you your emails and lets you compose responses—all through voice command.
  2. Cell Applications
    Apps such as ZoomSafer and TextArrest sense when you’re driving, usually by GPS measuring your speed, and disable most or all of your phone's functionality once a pre-determined speed is reached. All offer some sort of emergency override and passenger-usage exceptions, and some include Web-based cellphone-use monitoring.
  3. Combination Hardware/Apps
    Instead of relying on GPS to sense car usage, a small module gets attached to a part of your car such as the emergency brake or the OBD (on-board diagnostics) module. Once the module is triggered by car usage, a signal disables your phone. Another set of solutions uses a Bluetooth module to enable all-voice and text-to-speech capabilities.

Few of these apps are available for the iPhone because earlier versions of the iPhone operating system didn't support multitasking. With the release of iOS 4 in late June, though, this limitation was fixed and so more apps are expected soon.


Phones and Mobile, Phone Accessories, Cell Phones, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, BlackBerry Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Travel & Entertainment, Car Tech & Safety

Email and Texting Solutions
 Name Type App
Hardware (HW)
Software (SW)
Trigger Subscription Price
cellcontrol disables/monitors App/HW/SW Blackberry
Windows Mobile
speed yes $90
Key2SafeDriving disables/monitors App/HW Blackberry
Windows Mobile
ignition no $99.95
Try Safety First disables App/HW Blackberry
Windows Mobile
no $99
StopTxting disables App Android speed no free
TextArrest disables/monitors App/SW Blackberry
speed yes $4.99/m
ZoomSafer disables  App Blackberry
Windows Mobile
speed yes $25
Dial2Do read/compose service n/a dial-in yes $4/m or
$40/year read/compose App Blackberry
Windows Mobile 7
none no $13.95
iLane read/compose App/HW Blackberry
Windows Mobile
none no $399
Vlingo SafeReader read/compose App Blackberry
none  yes $19.99
Voice on the Go  read/compose service iPhone
dial-in yes $5.99/m or


Discussion loading


From Tom Whiting on April 21, 2010 :: 3:51 pm

Wow, we need an “app” for common sense now? Even more, we need to PAY for this app?? Come on now, this is ridiculous.

When did technology replace common sense? Common sense says that you don’t fiddle with your phone while driving!!!



From Rich on May 04, 2010 :: 10:21 am

You must have looked at the vlingo demo which I agree is a bit overboard.  But did you look at the iLane demo which I think really hits the mark with what an app like this should do:

That said, I’m not sure why they need a dedicated device in this day and age, but Fonix did this for Windows Mobile a long time ago.



From John on March 05, 2011 :: 11:43 pm

The SafeTexting Campaign participates in safety related and other community events, where they provide distracted driving literature and talk to parents, teens and adults about the dangers of texting while driving. The founding partners are concerned parents who have decided it was necessary to go beyond just education and a pledge. They have developed a downloadable application that uses GPS technology to prevent texting while driving. The application also has settings to further lock the phone down preventing incoming and outgoing calls. The application is the key to modifying an individuals behavior.


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