Texting while driving is a major affront to roadway safety, in Florida and nationally. Estimates distraction is a contributing factor in 16 percent of all crashes and 60 percent of those involving teens.
One of the primary causes of distraction? Texting. It’s illegal in Florida for all drivers to text, per F.S. 316.305, which bars use of handheld wireless communication by drivers. However, it’s only a secondary offense, meaning the law is not as effective as it could be at cracking down on this dangerous problem. Officers can only cite someone for violating the law if they are able to legally stop them for some other offense.
It’s one of the most lenient distracted driving laws in the country, with reticent lawmakers expressing dismay at curbing personal liberties.
Now, a professor of electrical engineering and sciences at Florida Atlantic University has come up with a possible solution: An invention that blocks drivers from being able to text. This technology reportedly prevents the driver from sending or receiving text messages while the vehicle is in motion. But the amazing part is it does not prevent passengers from continuing to send and receive text messages.
So promising was this invention that the university was prompted to patent it, and a technology firm in Dania Beach is going to soon begin developing mass production of the devices. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents in Florida, and then hopefully, nationwide.
The move comes as the Florida legislature is preparing to enter talks about strengthening the state’s current law, enacted two years ago, by potentially making texting-while-driving a primary offense. Even supporters of the existing law mince no words about it: “It hasn’t worked, “said State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach. She said enforcement has to follow or else the law is useless.
She has proposed a new bill that would allow police officers to stop drivers solely for texting and would also double the fine for a one-time offense from $30 to $60. Florida officials attributed 42,000 accidents statewide to distracted drivers. These caused an estimated 35,000 injuries and more than 200 deaths. Those are conservative estimates.
The FAU professor who invented the new anti-texting device was driven by these statistics. His software program would prevent cell phones and other mobile devices from downloading message when a driver is holding them and also moving at a certain speed (perhaps 10 mph).
There are still some bugs to be worked out, but when the technology is totally developed, the mobile network carrier would be able to pinpoint the phone of the driver by tracking clusters of cell phones moving at the same speed and then zeroing in on the one that is located to the top left, where the driver would be seated.
The technology is specifically going to be geared toward companies with employee drivers and for families with teens. There is some suggestion that insurance companies may lower premiums for drivers who agree to have the devices installed. It includes a sensor on the windshield coupled with an app on their smartphone.
It’s expected to go on sale sometime in the next two months.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
FAU prof invents way to block texting while driving, May 11, 2015, By William E. Gibson, Sun-Sentinel
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