Every year Florida lawmakers try to enact legislation that prohibits the use of a cell phone while driving, and every year the measure is defeated in the state legislature or vetoed by the governor. Even this year, a bill was defeated that would have prohibited hand-held mobile devices used by anyone under the age of 18 while behind the wheel in an attempt to prevent distracted driving in Florida.
As it stands, Florida is one of 17 states in the U.S. that allow you to text or talk on the cell phone while driving. Now, an unlikely group would like to change that including popular singer Justin Bieber, a congresswoman from South Florida, and an Orlando app developer, according to a report in The South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The three are involved in a public education campaign. Justin Bieber is promoting a software app, PhoneGuard, which is an anti-texting while driving app for smartphones. Expect to see the ads on television soon featuring Bieber and a company spokesman. The company that created the app is Media Options Group out of Boca Raton. At the same time, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Miami) will file two federal bills to stop drivers from talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. She has authored bills that failed in the past because, she says, lawmakers reject government intruding into individual behavior.
Florida had no data connecting the dots between cell phone use and auto accidents and fatalities, at least not until this year. Beginning in January, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles implemented a new crash report system which allows law enforcement, responding to the scene of an auto accident, to include information on whether texting, cell phones, DVD players, navigation systems, or other distractions played a role in car accidents in Florida.
About 500,000 people are injured in auto accidents involving texting and 1,000 die in cell phone-related crashes every year says Wilson, quoting Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics. Use of a phone while driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by about 23 percent. Her first bill, the Drive to Stay Alive Act of 2011, punishes states that have failed to enact anti-texting laws by withholding five percent of DOT federal funds.
The PhoneGuard app uses GPS tracking to lock the keyboard of a Blackberry and Android if the car is traveling at speeds in excess of 10 mph. A wireless Bluetooth will still work. And if the car travels faster than 65 mph, parents may program the app to send them a notice.
A Blackberry app from NOTXT Communications of Orlando called the NOTXT n’ Drive app, will disabled a phone from any use when the vehicle travels faster than 10 mph. When the car stops, the phone’s function returns.
Text’nDrive for the iPhone will read aloud your electronic emails and one version will allow you to respond via voice command.