Motor vehicle accidents are the single highest cause of death for young people - and the dangerous practice of texting while driving is on the rise among teens and young adults. Textecution is an Android app that parents can install on their kids' phones. It's designed to shut down all texting functions - sending and receiving - if the phone handset is moving at more than 10mph. It's a flawed solution, but a first step towards combatting a very serious issue that's only going to become worse as smartphones proliferate.
About 2% of all deaths in America are caused by needless and tragic road traffic accidents. That doesn't sound like much - but consider this: motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24. A significant slab of humanity is wiped out each year in tragic road accidents that have to be viewed as completely preventable.
Legislators come down hard on some of the contributing factors; speed enforcement is becoming stricter and harsher all across the globe, many countries have laws that force people to update their cars often to make sure everyone's driving the safest vehicles possible - and drink driving carries very severe punishments in most jurisdictions.
But other causes seem to be treated with disproportionate leniency. Mobile phone use, for example, is well understood to increase the likelihood of an accident, so it's illegal unless you use a handsfree device. But studies show that it doesn't actually matter whether you're holding the phone or using handsfree, the distraction factor is the same. Two activities, each as dangerous as the other, one carries heavy fines and the other doesn't.
Texting is another big one. With many teens and young adults using texting as a primary form of communication, more and more of them are texting while behind the wheel. And the effect on concentration is devastating - worse than drink driving or drug-taking.
While many areas have laws to ban texting, a simple look out your window next time you're on the road will tell you the laws aren't working. It's rare to take a trip when you *don't* see somebody texting or talking on their phone.
And this is the reason Textecution was developed. It's a very simple piece of software for Android phones that completely disables a handset's texting functions when the inbuilt GPS detects that the phone's moving at more than 10mph. No sending, no receiving.
The idea is that parents will buy the software and put it on their teenagers' phones as a prerequisite to borrowing the car. Or employers will put it on their workers' phones.
Any attempt to send a text message at more then 10mph brings up a window that simply says "you are moving too fast to use this application" - at which point the user can request permission from the administrator or parent to override the software. If mum or dad knows that junior's on a train or in the passenger seat that day, they can text back a code that takes the Textecution lock off for a period of 4 hours.
Can a smart kid get around it? Well, yeah. It's apparently not too hard to uninstall, but the theory here is that parents will notice if that happens and deal out their own repercussions.
There's other holes in the reasoning too - when junior's car slows down or stops for a traffic light, the texting functionality comes back on, meaning that messages will probably arrive while the car's stationary. And we all know how hard it can be not to read a text that's just popped up.
Still, it's an honest effort and a step in the right direction, a way of trying to automatically remove the temptation of texting while falling short of the (currently) illegal step of installing mobile phone jamming technology in the car.
Textecution is available now for US$39.95. It's currently only working on Android handsets, althogh the makers say there's a new platform coming on board soon. It won't be Apple, though - Apple refuses to let application developers interfere with core phone functions like texting.