A 2009 study (PDF) from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a “crash or near crash event” than “nondistracted driving.” As reported by CNET’s Jennifer Guevin, the study also found that “texting took a driver’s focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds–enough time…to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.”
Teenage drivers are especially vulnerable. In addition to being less experienced drivers, they are more likely to text than adults. A Federal Communications Commission consumer advisory on texting while driving quotes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as reporting that driver distraction was the cause of 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008, resulting in 5,800 fatalities and 515,000 injuries. The American Automobile Association says that “taking your eyes off of the road for two seconds doubles your risk of getting into a crash.”
Inthinc, a Salt Lake City company, was at the Consumer Electronics Show with a solution for parents and companies whose employees have company issued phones. The product, which is called Tiwi, costs $299 plus a $29.95 monthly subscription fee, can disable a cell phone for calling or texting, according to CEO Todd Follmer. It can also report the person’s speed, whether they’re engaged in aggressive driving and even if they’re using their seat belt. Parents or employers can check in via an internet portal.
To learn more, I spoke with CEO Todd Follmer at the Showstoppers press event at CES 2011.